An appetite for expansion:  Courtyard Cafe on Main doubles size, adds B&B units

By on January 14, 2016

 

The grand opening for the expansion of the popular Courtyard Café on Main in Denver is Monday, Jan. 18.

Denver, and not in Colorado, has a definite hotspot now where people from Lititz Borough actually come — and not because they just happen to be in the area.

“People are coming from Lititz!” said owner Carol Hollinger, a 1980 Cocalico graduate. “People are coming in and say they love it and wish there were retail shops here like in Lititz.”

Photo by Michele Walter Fry Standing in front of the popular Denver Courtyard Cafe on Main are (from left) Courtney Rittenour, Denver Mayor Rodney Redcay, Carol Hollinger, and Hannah Greiner.

Photo by Michele Walter Fry
Standing in front of the popular Denver Courtyard Cafe on Main are (from left) Courtney Rittenour, Denver Mayor Rodney Redcay, Carol Hollinger, and Hannah Greiner.

When she told friends and family that she and her husband, Brian, would be opening a café in Denver, they suspected it would fail. To make it seem more risky, they would be taking over an already failed, empty café.

“People think there’s nothing here,” Hollinger said. “We thought that, too. When we bought it, the other café was really bad. We redid the whole thing.

“Everybody said: ‘Denver! Nobody comes to Denver! Why would you do something like this in Denver?’ It has been amazing the amount of people who come in and say this is what Denver needed.”

“There’s potential for a lot of growth in Denver,” said Hannah Greiner, the power-house employee for the café and arguably the secret behind its expansion success.

Greiner worked as a supervisor for Tomato Pie Café in Lititz, arguably the most popular restaurant in the Borough of Lititz where people stand on the porch to wait for a seat. She would make the 30-minute drive into Lititz but now walks only four houses down to work to the Courtyard on Main. She’s been working at the Courtyard for almost two years.

One might not think a menu with sprouts and ham as a special of the month would survive in Denver, either. Then there’s the steak and brie sandwich.

“We don’t do your usual ham and cheese, we do classic flavors with a unique twist,” said Greiner. “They’re not too crazy but they are a little different and not your usual sandwich. We try to take things that people are comfortable with and put a little spin on them so they are a little more unique.”

Everything in the café is handmade, in house, even the dressings and sauces.

“If we wouldn’t serve it to our families, we wouldn’t serve it in the restaurant,” Greiner said.

The Tomato Pie Café in Lititz will not give out its “secret” recipe for the famous tomato pie.

“The tomato pie recipe really isn’t that secretive or healthy,” Greiner said. “It’s just a basic crust with tomatoes and herbs. It’s then given a cheese mixture for the top.”

“It takes a lot of time making things in house and Courtney (Rittenour) and I are the only ones who do it,” said Greiner.

Rittenour is the daughter of Hollinger and manages the café.

Greiner and Rittenour are one of three chef teams to compete in the 10th Annual Iron Chef Cocalico in March. It’s a big deal and is media covered across counties in Central Pennsylvania. The defending champion is the chef for the Navy base in Mechanicsburg.

The café opened in September 2012 with about 25 seats. Two years ago the owners decided to expand and were able to purchase the house next door.

“We were just getting too full,” Hollinger said. “We had the courtyard and it was nice. Everyone said to expand out this way and we said ‘no’ because it would take out the courtyard and everybody likes to sit out there in the summer.”

They doubled their seating after the expansion which was finished the week after Christmas.

“We’re still unbelievably packed, especially Saturday morning,” Hollinger said.

Hollinger is making a two-unit bed and breakfast upstairs above the new café addition.

“Courtney always wanted a café and I always wanted a bed and breakfast,” Hollinger said.

Rittenour is due any day with her first baby.

“The plans were that I would watch him upstairs,” Hollinger said, who lives with her husband in the apartment above the café.

“She wants to take a little bit of time off, but she’s very — she likes to be in control like her mother, so I don’t think she’s going to take as much time off as she thinks she is. I can’t see her just sitting around.”

Being a business owner has its challenges such as neighbor problems.

“If there are any problems, we call Rod (Redcay) and he takes care of it right away,” Hollinger said. Redcay is the mayor of Denver.

Hanging on the walls of the café are paintings of John Showalter Jr. He has been a local artist in the area for decades and is the father of Hollinger.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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