Simple. Local. Connections. Those are the aims of Cathy Yerges, who this week opened Cambridge Market Café in leased space at 217 W. Main St., formerly CamRock Café.
The entire building, which has other units available for lease, was purchased in April by local resident Kevin Korth.
There will be Steep & Brew coffee, but no espresso machine or coffee drinks, Yerges said.
“We have an establishment in town that does that,” in Kindfolk Coffee Co., directly across the street at 214 W. Main St., she said. “We don’t want to be a competitor to them.”
Bakery will come from Fosdal Home Bakery in Stoughton and independent local bakers. And there will be a variety of other beverages for sale, including Sassy Cow Milk from Columbus. Bakery and beverages have been available since June 20; the full kitchen will open July 1 with soups, sandwiches and salads, Yerges said.
Yerges said the food menu is still being developed, with the hope of sourcing some ingredients locally.
“We’re talking with different food vendors, establishing those relationships now,” Yerges said. “We’d love to work with some local produce vendors. We’d like to keep it as local to Cambridge as possible.”
Yerges’ vision is for some of the bakery counter items to come from independent vendors who might do their prep after-hours in the café’s small commercial kitchen.
So far, Yerges said she has commitments from two Cambridge vendors: a cupcake maker and Silver Teaspoon Bakery, which specializes in gluten-free items.
Yerges has a similar goal with art — to connect with local artists to display work in the café for sale on a consignment or rental space basis.
Yerges, whose business background includes retail, corporate banking, virtual assistance entrepreneur support and marketing and social media, said she is eager to work with art and food entrepreneurs. She also owns a social marketing firm whose office will be in second-floor leased space above the café.
“None of this is new to me. For the past 15 years, I’ve been playing a support role for entrepreneurs,” she said. “My goal with this space is to help hobbyists and entrepreneurs take that next step, whatever that next step might be. If they want to keep it as a hobby but just want to sell their wares, we can talk. If they need help with a little bit of marketing and operationals, that’s my background, too.”
“The space is really about featuring what the community has to offer,” Yerges continued. “I am believer that everybody has their gifts and talents, and when we put all those pieces together we can do great things.”
“It’s kind of bringing back the charm of olden days, where you knew at the church pie sale whose pie you wanted to bid on because you knew they were the best pie baker in town.‘Who’s the best pie baker in town? Well, they have their stuff featured at Cambridge Market.’”
Yerges said she plans to post biographical information in the café on featured food vendors and artisans, so visitors can learn more about them. She said she believes Cambridge has enough local bakers to keep the bakery counter stocked.
She said the general goal for the menu is to include items that appeal to a variety of tastes and ages.
Yerges said the café’s social media hashtag, CambridgeProud, reflects that while out-of-town visitors “are certainly welcome,” the space is being designed with the needs of local residents in mind.
“People want a gathering space. Young parents are looking for a place where they feel comfortable bringing their kids, teenagers are looking for place that they’re welcomed. Senior citizens are looking for a place where they can gather and have their cup of coffee. I’m trying to feel those needs, to make everyone feel welcome here. I think there are a lot of needs that our locals need to have filled,” she said.
Yerges said the café welcomes groups, including Bible studies and book clubs. And she said all or part of the space can be rented out. She said she’s already got several private party bookings on the calendar.
Yerges said the menu intentionally won’t include hamburgers, pizza or fried foods, which other downtown restaurants feature.
“We do not want to be a direct competitor to anybody,” she reiterated. “We have great places in town who do that.” The intent, rather, is to try “to fill little niches that aren’t being serviced in town.”
Yerges said she’s hired an assistant manager and a crew of nine high school students who will staff the counter and the kitchen. She said she expects to do more hiring in August, for fall and winter.
The interior of the café has been updated since its time as CamRock Café with new paint, a new, large southside window to let in light, new furniture and an entryway upgrade.
“We want people to walk in and recognize it as different so it’s not compared to what it was,” Yerges said. “It’s got a fresh look.”
The new furniture includes a large farmhouse table with a wooden top built by her husband, Kevin, and an iron based crafted by Andrew Eggert of Firestorm Forge in Madison. Eggert will be one of the featured artists at Midwest Fire Fest in Cambridge in July.
Yerges said the farmhouse table is key to the café’s gathering-space focus, where people can “come together for conversation.”
Cambridge Market Café is open 7 days a week. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Yerges said social media is the best place to see events and to follow the café’s progress.