Opening The Next Chapter: Friends opening cafe at Northshire Bookstore

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MANCHESTER — The restaurant space at the Northshire Bookstore won't be empty for long.

A trio of talented friends, with skills in food, business and design, is taking on the challenge of operating a restaurant and cafe in the space previously occupied by the Spiral Press. The new eatery, which will be called The Next Chapter Cafe, in keeping with the bookstore theme, is slated to open in November, the owners said.

"It's a wonderful location with a fantastic backdrop" in the bookstore, executive chef and cafe manager Sandra Kraehling of East Dorset said of the opportunity.

The principals, all women, include Kraehling who has owned and operated a local catering business and the Pan Latin Cafe in New York City; business and marketing manager Daniela Stewart of Dorset, the co-owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors with her husband, Scott Stewart; and facilities manager and outreach coordinator Susan Howard of Manchester, an experienced interior designer. The space became available when the Spiral Press closed last month after a 15-year run,

The Next Chapter Cafe will offer familiar cafe favorites such as coffees and baked goods, but it will also feature a synergy of Latin-influenced cuisine with Vermont roots — quite literally, as the trio plans to use as many local products as possible — for breakfast, lunches and some dinner items.

"This is the right place, the right time, the right cuisine," Kraehling said of the group's plans for the space.

As for the food? For the past four years, Kraehling, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and former New York restaurant owner-chef, has used a simple description for her cuisine: "Latin-inspired, sun-created, Vermont-finished."

If you've been to area farmers markets where Kraehling sets up shop — the Dorset market on Sunday morning, most notably — then you're familiar with her cuisine. Contemplate, for example, her "Prensado" sandwich: "That is a tortilla filled with a bunch of thinly sliced farmers market veggies with the addition of mango, jicama and avocado to give a Latin twist, local cheddar and a drizzle of sauce," she explained. "It's folded like an envelope, pressed and sliced vertically so when you eat it you get all these lovely complementary

flavors and colors."

She's also planning to include a guava-glazed roast chicken, using locally-raised birds — "the meat falls off the bone," she said — and signature Latin-inspired desserts, such as Colombian hot chocolate and dark chocolate flan.

The Latin inspiration comes from the fact Kraehling is Colombian-American, she said. "The food is a fusion of some of that inspiration along with absolute commitment and usage of local products. .... We have more of an ethnic fabric than we realize in Vermont. It's not homogenous, nor do we want it to be."

Kraehling and Stewart became friends years ago as parents of students at Burr and Burton Academy. Stewart was also friends with Howard, having met her when she was a client of Stewart's home inspection business. Her design credentials include more than 30 years of commercial interior design project work and construction project management experience.

"People say don't go into business with friends. We are friends but we are very keen on working and acknowledging the role of business partners. We are taking this quite seriously," Kraehling said.

"In my own quiet thoughts, I could see the potential here," Howard said of her assessment of the space. "I'm thrilled I can see it come to fruition now."

The layout of the new eatery has been completed, furnishings have been selected, and a new coat of paint is in the way, Howard said.

"It's actually a very good space to work with," she said. "The one thing we'll be improving is a variety of different seating options."

That will include more two- and four-seat tables, she said, as well as a large farm table in the back for larger parties, meetings, and Burr and Burton Academy students for whom the Spiral Press was long an after-school hangout.

The space will be optimized for people with mobility challenges, as Howard's design experience includes consulting with businesses on Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. And the bathrooms will be gender neutral, in compliance with a recent change in state law.

Downstairs, in the Bonnet Street storefront space adjacent to the kitchen, the plan is to create more efficiency in the ordering area. "Hopefully because of the footprint we've moved around a little bit, we hope to have more traffic flow going," Kraehling said. The hope is that creates easier ordering and more efficient delivery.

"We have incredible complementary energy," Kraehling said of the group. "We each have strong points and we bring those to the table, no pun intended."

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com or at 802-490-6000.

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