Back in business: Old Brick Caf

July 17, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

The popular Williston Village eatery, the Old Brick Café, will reopen next month after being closed for nearly a year. New owners Melissa Blanchard and Scott Nicholson have been busy every day in preparation for the Aug. 5 opening.

This is a first-time restaurant venture for the couple, who have dreamed of opening a restaurant. When Blanchard discovered the Old Brick Café was looking for new owners, she jumped at the chance.

"It's been our dream," Blanchard said. "We saw the building, contacted Dave (Herskowitz, the owner) and decided to give it a shot."

Herskowitz is renting out the space to the new owners — who have purchased the name of the restaurant and all the equipment — and hopes they do well with the restaurant that he had success with.

Observer photo by Tim Simard
Old Brick Café owners (from left) Scott Nicholson and Melissa Blanchard, along with Chef Traclyn Bogges, stand outside the Williston Village eatery on Williston Road. The 'new' Old Brick Café will reopen on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

"It's good to know someone who's opening a restaurant is this enthusiastic about it," Herskowitz said.

Herskowitz closed the restaurant last September because it was requiring too much of his time, which he wanted to devote to family and other business ventures, such as real estate, he said.

Kitchen backgrounds

Blanchard has worked in the dining industry off and on for several years. She said she's done a lot of prep work at high-end restaurants, such as the North Hero House in North Hero.

She said working with food has always been a part of her life, even though she went to college to study art. She remembers cooking with her mother and grandmother, making dishes from scratch, and she said she wants to bring that feeling into the new restaurant.

Blanchard and Nicholson have brought along Chef Traclyn Bogges, a friend of Nicholson's for close to 10 years. Bogges attended Keiser University Center of Culinary Arts in Tallahassee, Fla. before working at high-end retirement communities in Florida as the single chef in the kitchens. She has competed in different American Culinary Federation competitions, picking up one silver and two bronze medals for her dessert creations.

Bogges just moved to Vermont from Colorado Springs, Colo. with her husband, Scott Bogges, and their daughter, Eva.

"Trace kicks butt, that's why she's here," Blanchard said.

Nicholson is working more on the business and marketing angle, as well as being one of the restaurant's first servers, Blanchard said.

Nicholson said there's been community buzz building in town, thanks in part to a brief opening on July 4, when Blanchard and Nicholson sold homemade treats to Independence Day parade watchers.

"Right now, it's been mostly word-of-mouth," Nicholson said.

Blanchard agreed.

"We've had people randomly stop in and say, 'We're happy you're opening soon!'" she said.

The former Ayurvedic Center of Vermont, which was also located in the building, has recently moved. The space is being turned into an apartment for the Bogges, Herskowitz said.

Big ideas

Both Blanchard and Bogges have been working hard to create a unique menu that will bring customers back time and time again. Traditional breakfast items will be available, such as French toast, omelets, pancakes and more. Lunch will also be a creative time, with daily soups, pan-seared crab cakes, chicken satay, a Cuban sandwich and individual potpies, to name a few items. Saturdays and Sundays will offer a creative brunch menu. Most items will be available to go, Blanchard said.

Bogges said she wants to hear back from the community as to what residents want to see in the Village eatery.

"People are tired of the choices around the box stores," Bogges said. "They're looking for something different around here."

Blanchard said she plans to use as many local products as she can, including buying meats from LaPlatte Beef, like Herskowitz used to do when he ran the restaurant.

Blanchard said she also wants to offer catering for area businesses looking for simple sandwiches for different events.

Bogges has several ideas for desserts, including a new creation she's called the Vermont-lava, a local take on the traditional baklava, which include local maple syrup.

"I make a really killer baklava," Bogges said.

Other ideas floating around include specialty dessert nights, when Bogges would make elegant desserts typically available only in the best restaurants, she said.

"I'm hoping I can really apply my culinary skills," Bogges said.

For now, Blanchard, Nicholson and the Bogges are busy repainting the interior and getting the restaurant ready for the August opening.

"I can't wait for the fifth," Blanchard said.

The café is scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday will feature brunch from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Blanchard is hoping to open the restaurant for private dinner parties in the future.