I’ve got a riddle for you. What stays the same and yet gets better?
Answer: The “new” Lumberville Store & Cafe
When the Lumberville General Store closed in January 2015 there was concern in the small riverside village of Lumberville. A close-knit community, folks were worried. Where would they hang out? Pick up the paper? Grab a coffee and muffin in the morning? And how long would this renovation take?
Concern turned to consternation as the renovation dragged on through the summer, fall and winter of 2016. And everyone asked, “When?”
That question was answered on April 4, 2016 when the store officially reopened as the Lumberville Store & Cafe.
What’s new…and restored?
I sat down with Grant Ross, general manager of the Black Bass Hotel and the Lumberville Store, last Thursday to learn more about the renovation and what’s new.
We sat in the main space of the store, now called the café. It was warm, cozy and inviting, especially on an overcast, cool April day. I bumped into a friend having lunch. Two mothers sat with their small children at another table, gabbing but occasionally feeding the kids a morsel or two. At another table sat a foursome of older men, schmoozing away the afternoon, drinking coffee.
“In November 2014, Mr. Thompson broke it to me,” Ross explains. “He was thinking, why not remodel the General Store?”
Mr. Thompson—Jack Thompson—is the owner of the Black Bass Hotel and the Lumberville General Store. He is also the owner of a large number of car dealerships in Doylestown, and a local philanthropist.
A long admirer of the hotel and its history, he bought it at auction in 2008 and put a lot of money and love into restoring and refurbishing the historic building built in the 1740s.
The goal, Ross shares, was to keep the casual, comfortable community feel of the old General Store but offer good, healthy, and affordable food.
“Mr. Thompson really wants to give back to the community. He wanted to create a place where people can congregate,” says Ross.
The store’s chef, Stephen Mason, agrees. “We want to keep the same feeling as the old general store but use fresh, high quality food made here, instead of buying from somewhere else.”
“The focus is on how we treat the food,” says Ross. “The ingredients are affordable but treated in a special way, with respect. The food tastes like it should taste, not adulterated in any way.”
So, for example, all the meats are cured and smoked in-house. They make their own pastrami, porchetta, sausage (with natural casing), thick cut bacon, vegetarian sausage and smoked tofu.
They also make ice cream using their own dairy mix and natural ingredients, which you can purchase from a cold case that includes house made soups, pies and meals to go.
“The goal is to keep the casual, comfortable community feel of the old General Store but offer good, healthy, and affordable food.”
Looking around the café, you’ll see, just as in the old general store, locally made jams, honey, trail mix, and condiments on the shelves.
Homestead Coffee Roasters, just up the road in Upper Black Eddy, created a special roast for the café. Choose from dark, medium or decaf. Espresso, cappuccinos, lattes and other drinks come out of a large Italian machine in the corner, lovingly dubbed “Big Red” by the staff.
What’s for breakfast? And lunch?
“Breakfast,” says Mason, “is simple. French toast, breakfast sandwiches, etc.” Simple maybe, but far from ordinary.
The French toast, for instance, is called the French Pain Perdu, served with caramelized banana and maple syrup, hash browns and your choice of house made breakfast meat (“Ginger Sage Breakfast Sausage,” “Peppercorn Crusted Bacon,” “Lean Country Ham,” or “Smoked Vegetarian Sausage.”)
The Hearty Start Biscuit is two fried eggs on a buttermilk scallion biscuit with hash browns. Or try the Raised Bed Wrap: a burrito with pepper, red onion and zucchini, scrambled eggs, black beans and goat cheese wrapped in a flour or corn tortilla with hash browns. Simple? Yeah, right.
The café opens at 6:30 am and offers breakfast until 11:30 am. Then the lunch menu kicks in with soups, salads, sandwiches and lunch plates. Again, a wide selection of interesting dishes with something for everyone.
The Lumberville Smashed Burger is a “flattened” 6 oz. burger served on a Kaiser roll with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion. For another $1.95, though, you can add bacon and egg, avocado and crunchy peanut butter, or macaroni and cheese.
Vegetarians and gluten-free customers will find many choices on the menu that will tempt the carnivores as well. In fact, five of the eight breakfast specials are gluten-free, as are many of the lunch items.
How about a Spaghetti Squash salad? Roasted spaghetti squash, chopped peanuts, orange and cilantro over baby spinach with a sesame vinaigrette. I’d happily become a vegetarian with food like this.
Want to just hang with a friend and nosh? The “Sit and Share” Plates on the lunch menu are perfect. I’d go for the Rustic Country Pate & House-Smoked Salmon, served with red onion marmalade and herb focaccia. Or the Hummus, Goat Cheese & Roasted Red Pepper Walnut Dip, also with herb focaccia and an olive tapenade.
What about the Supper Club?
Several years ago the Lumberville General Store began special dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Supper Club quickly caught on and became a local favorite. And why not? A different menu each week, a 3-course prix fixe and only $24.95 per person, BYOB.
I’m happy to say the Supper Club has resumed and had its debut with flying colors last Friday evening, April 8. We dined with friends and greatly enjoyed the food, the ambience and the service.
As we got started on our wine, a herb and roasted garlic focaccia with whipped tahini hummus arrived. Appetizers were a choice of cheesy roasted corn chowder with parmesan crisp or a salad of baby spinach, mushrooms and pancetta with champagne vinaigrette. Both were good but the soup was really special.
For an entrée, I had the seared salmon fillet served with Szechuan mushroom ragu and wasabi risotto. Mark ordered the applewood smoked roasted chicken breast served with gorgonzola cream and a sun-dried tomato risotto. Another option was a cornmeal crusted marinated tofu with roasted garlic cream and cheddar risotto.
The menu changes every week. It’s an opportunity for the chef to try new things that might make it onto the daily specials or meals to go. Click here for the current Supper Club menus.
The New/Old Lumberville General Store
Part of the charm of the “old” general store was its creaky, old, musty feel. You felt like you were standing in history. It was the oldest working post office in the United States until the USPS closed it several years ago.
For the renovation, “we stuck with principles,” explains Ross. “It was an old historic building and it’s still an old historic building.”
But when a building is old, renovations can be…interesting. Built in 1770, the site was originally two buildings, then at some point a structure was built to join those buildings. As the layers were peeled off, there were all kinds of surprises.
“Like the hotel, once we started renovating it ended up being the worst case scenario,” Ross laments. “But we got an opportunity to reinvent the General Store and bring it up a few notches.”
Here again, Ross praises Thompson’s resolve. “It really takes dedication to put money into something that will not be a money-maker.”
“There are so many ‘third’ places here—the parlor, library, a hip cafe, lawn and patio chairs. We want to be a community center and we want it to be fun.”
It’s not only the main space of the former store that has changed. Two additional rooms—used mostly for storage—have been renovated and reborn, creating three very different spaces for customers.
Walk into the store now and you’re greeted by the cozy, bright café filled with small tables accommodating up to 30 diners. To the right, is the deli counter and coffee station, and behind that is the kitchen. (There is also an out building nearby that houses another kitchen, and the work space for pastry chef Richard Cohen.)
But two additional rooms have been reclaimed. Turn to the left as you enter the store and walk down a short hallway that leads to the Library. A large stone fireplace dominates the room, flanked with original cabinets and shelving.
Although there are a couple of small tables in the room, settle yourself in one of the four comfortable chairs set in front of the fireplace and enjoy the warmth of the wood burning stove. When we came for the supper club, we sat in the Library. After dinner, we took the bottle of port and moved over to the chairs. It was like being home—without having to do the dishes.
From the Library, turn right into the Parlor. A larger room, it includes a long wooden table, available free for community meetings, book clubs and other gatherings (including private parties).
At the windows, reclaimed wooden planks form desks, perfect for working and gazing abstractedly with a coffee nearby. Facing another large fireplace with a wood burning stove are a leather sofa flanked by two comfortable chairs. As we walked into the room, a woman was curled up in one of the chairs, a computer in her lap. It felt relaxing just to stand in the room.
The principles behind the renovation, as Ross stated, were to honor the history of the building. That was done by careful deconstruction of materials (the cafe had three floors!) and reuse of the materials elsewhere.
For instance, floor joists that had to be removed reappear as rafters. Old barn wood from Thompson’s property up the road is used for walls in the hallway and library. And brick from the property is used for flooring in the entry way.
Simple, traditional…and keep it fun!
The massive stone walls and fireplaces were sand-blasted, acid washed and repointed. Old original beams are now exposed. The ceiling in the café—made from beaded wood and tin—remains, restored with a bit of cleaning and repainting.
Much thanks go to John Shortall, architect for the project, and Graham Ferallio, general contractor. Laura Thompson-Barnes is responsible for all the interior design. She designed the Parlor and Library, including the colors, furniture, and interesting features and finishing touches. All in the family, you’ll even see watercolors on the walls painted by Lorraine Thompson, Jack’s wife.
And I haven’t even mentioned the outside! A new patio, with tables, chairs and umbrellas, invites you to enjoy munching al fresco. Further to the back of the property, you’ll see another patio and Adirondack chairs on the lawn.
“There are so many ‘third’ places here—the parlor, library, a hip cafe, lawn and patio chairs,” says Anton King, manager of the store. “It makes us versatile. We want to be a community center and we want it to be fun.”
Similarly, Ross sums up the new Lumberville Store & Cafe in a few words: “Simple, traditional…and keep it fun!”
The Lumberville Store & Cafe
3741 River Road
Lumberville, PA 18933
Hours: 6:30 am – 5:30 pm, Monday through Sunday
Supper Club, Fridays and Saturdays, 6 pm – 10 pm with seatings at 6 pm, 6:30 pm, and 8 pm. Reservations required. See upcoming menus online.