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New Cafe could be Espressoly for You

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By Brad Bowman

Jennifer Cook wanted a business both teenagers and adults could enjoy in her hometown, New Castle.

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The obstacles of updating an older building with modern health and plumbing codes commonly scare new business owners away, but Cook hopes to change that.

“I grew up in Henry County and as a teen we constantly wanted somewhere to hang out,” Cook said. “We hung out on Bardstown Road and I thought a coffee shop would be a simple idea.”

Cook installed Wi-Fi, redecorated the 23 East Cross Main building with coffee house themed wallpaper, added ovens and a deli counter for what she hopes will open as ‘Espressoly for You’ coffee shop in the next couple of months. Offering many of the same beloved caffeinated concoctions as Starbucks without the high price, Cook saw it as a win for the city.

“Nothing on my menu is over five bucks,” Cook said. “I want to offer brownies, sandwiches and all the different types of coffee drinks people get from some of the bigger franchise shops.”

Cook opened her doors during the New Castle Spring Fling to the public and handed out fliers to preview her new business.

But getting everything up to code has been a daunting task for Cook.

“I had to install a three compartment sink, a grease trap and will have to change the plumbing,” Cook said. “I will have to switch to carry-out because of my seating and I can’t afford to put in another bathroom.”

Tony Millet, North Central Health District Environmental Supervisor, said older buildings present a challenge to anyone wanting to open any type of food service business.

“Whenever a business changes ownership or an establishment shuts down for just one day they have to update fully to FDA codes,” Millet said. “Some businesses have to change their entire layout to make room for equipment and current standards.”

Food service businesses are required to have hand wash sinks in every service area, a three compartment sink with drain boards, a mop sink on each floor, a grease trap sized according to food menu and system type and have male and female restrooms required for 12 or more seating. Millet said older buildings present a challenge.

“I like to encourage people and help them put in new establishments like restaurants,” Millet said. “But sometimes the older buildings don’t promote it.”

Jeff Thoke, New Castle’s Main Street Manager, thinks new businesses require risk and a unique niche.

“You have to think in small towns whether it is New Castle or another town, the days of small retail are over. You have to think outside the box,” Thoke said. “The economy is starting to turn and the tough thing is getting someone to take a risk. Once someone does, I think it will snowball.”

Many people that visit New Castle think it resembles a quaint New England type town, according to Thoke. Those towns have luxury stores like antique shops, art galleries and bookstores, Thoke said.

“I would love to see a coffee shop open with Wi-Fi like Jennifer is wanting to do,” Thoke said. “I would like to see a diversity of businesses in New Castle. It (new businesses) will have to be something different and new. I have talked about opportunities for artists and local craftsman too. Restaurants are nice and they come and go because they are really tough to operate and make money. If you are given the shell of old building it can scare people. New Castle is a great town aesthetically and it is not far from Louisville, Cincinnati and Lexington.”

Cook hopes to open in the next two months once she gets everything up to code.

“I have a great landlord who has been really helpful and my family has given me a lot of support,” Cook said. “I have to replace the old plumbing and get it up to two inch piping. I’ve hit a lot of snags and if I had known beforehand I may have chosen a different route.”

Cook worked for four years at a restaurant in North Carolina, managed a Books-A-Million in Louisville and saw her business as a great idea for her and the town she grew up in. Cook hopes to open from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with lunch fare for businesses.

“I did a survey to see who would support it,” Cook said. “And the response was great. I would like to eventually sell books, offer story readings for children and give the youth of Henry County a cool place to be.”