Carlisle’s Spoons Cafe earlier this month opened its second location at the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center as part of a partnership that was almost two years in the making.
“This started well before COVID, but it just happened to come to fruition now,” said owner Patrick LeBlanc. “If you’re going to do it, you just have to do it.”
The original location on West Pomfret Street in Carlisle will remain open.
AHEC’s director Geoffrey Mangelsdorf said this is the first time that a locally owned restaurant has been part of the facility.
“We are a history-focused organization, and this is an historic event,” he said. “I was determined that we could work with community and bring somebody in. That it turned out to be Patrick is just icing on top of that cake.”
Mangelsdorf said the partnership with Spoons is “phenomenal for us,” adding that the restaurant is known for healthy, wholesome foods and is a veteran-owned, local restaurant.
“That’s exactly the kind of partnership that we’re looking for with our community,” he said.
Prior to the pandemic, the museum, which is free and open to the public, and its outdoor exhibits with a walking trail, saw a little more than 200,000 visitors per year, Mangelsdorf said. Overall, the number of people visiting dropped during the pandemic though the number of people walking the trail during warm weather increased.
The popularity of the trail will offer new offer new opportunities for LeBlanc, who said the restaurant would be open later in the evenings and on weekends to serve customers. The cafe is visible and accessible from the trail via a side door that will also make for more convenient takeout orders.
Classes at the center offer additional “built-in” potential for customers, plus the AHEC site has more space for outdoor dining with both a concrete patio and a pavilion near the cafe space, LeBlanc said.
The cafe brings together dishes like soups, sandwiches and salads that Spoons is known for with snack bar-style items like hot dogs, nachos, soft pretzels and the like. LeBlanc said the cafe will also serve ice cream.
“It’s a big investment,” he said. “It’s a risk and it’s tough right now because the banks and lenders are not real anxious to do anything with food people right now, believe me.”
LeBlanc said that up until the pandemic, Spoons had been doing well and he believes it will bounce back. Through the past year, it kept its employees on, started offering dinners to go and offered new initiatives like a carry-out window on the side of the building.
Still, sales were down about 50%, LeBlanc said. As a small, downtown business, Spoons was too small to ever go past 25% occupancy. Dickinson College students weren’t on campus and county employees were teleworking, complicating matters for the restaurant.
Mangelsdorf said AHEC is exploring other options for partnerships with local businesses.
Email Tammie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.