Monday, January 20, 2020
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Rock Hill Cafe completes its move, goes full vegan

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

After a year of preparation, Matt Funiciello’s Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe reopens this week at 18 Curran Lane in Glens Falls behind and next-door to the Shirt Factory. Both buildings are owned by Eric Unkauf.

Owner Matt Funiciello, with his life partner and production manager Amber Lannutti, standing in the cafe, with a window view to the bakery’s hearth oven. Photo/Cathy DeDe

The bakery moved from its long-time home in a shopping plaza in Moreau north of Northway Exit 17.

Mr. Funiciello’s new 28-seat cafe will be entirely vegan.

The cafe is the successor to Mr. Funiciello’s original cafe on Exchange Street, which continues to operate as The Exchange Street Cafe under new owners Sara and Chris Patten.

On Sunday, Mr. Funiciello walked The Chronicle through Rock Hill’s new, roughly 6,100-square-foot space, encompassing its cafe and retail store, kitchen, bakery, offices and packaging and storage rooms.

They planned to move the bakery on Tuesday, their no-baking day, and open the cafe and retail on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

Mr. Funiciello said they’ll start right away selling breads, biscotti, coffee and pastries, with the full cafe menu likely to begin in a couple of weeks.

Hours will be Monday to Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., to 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, closed on Sundays to start. Mr. Funiciello said they’ll add Sunday hours once the cafe gets going.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be limited to plant-based, all-vegan, from breads and pastries to tofu-based quiches, tofu scrambles, signature hearth-fired pizzas, soups, salads, sandwiches, chili, Indian-style dal and curries, and some gluten free (though not Celiac-safe) breads and more.

Looks like Rock Hill — Upright Steinway piano and tables from its prior location, now at the new Shirt Factory Annex site. There’s local art on the walls. Open mic and live music start right away. Signature differences: All-vegan menu; serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; counter service only; all bakery and wholesale operations move right there to the same site. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

Prepared, take-out and frozen items such as pizza dough, soups and lasagne will be available as well.

Mr. Funiciello said they’ll resume Rock Hill’s Thursday night open mic, with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. The upright Steinway is back on a small raised stage. The lending library returns, as do retail vinyl record sales and art exhibits.

There’s a viewing window from the cafe into the bakery. Mr. Funiciello said he aims to add baking classes and facility tours.

The project was originally expected to take just a few months, rather than eight. Mr. Funiciello said converting the former World War II-era Nabisco warehouse, most recently used for storage of large machinery and artifacts from the Shirt Factory, was a “herculean” process.

The dark and dusty industrial space has been converted with added windows, high ceilings and efficiently designed spaces for the dual bakery-cafe There’s a newly refurbished gas-fueled hearth oven — with plans to add a second, electric, potentially solar-powered oven as finances allow.

Mr. Funiciello said several elements, from the front doors, cooler and storage racks were scavenged from demolition of the recently replaced Exit 18 Stewart’s.

“I can’t say enough good about Eric Unkauf and his crew,” Mr. Funiciello said.

He also praised Glens Falls architect Gary McCoola for solutions to several challenging logistical and design issues, Hudson Falls contractor Mark McDonald, head baker Jack Diffee, Amber Lannutti, who is Mr. Funiciello’s life partner and production manager, “and our entire staff, for keeping the bakery running for eight months while we were doing this.”

There will be 27 staff members altogether, fewer than when he ran the separate bakery and cafe, Mr. Funiciello notes.

Re: Rock Hill’s all-vegan philosophy

Owner Matt Funiciello says Rock Hill Bakery’s move to a new location and shifted cafe model was purpose-driven.

“The real story here is a business going to all-vegan,” he said. “Maybe that will inspire other businesses that they can do this too.”

“People may say it’s crazy and naive,” Mr. Funiciello says of his business plan. “Well, I am crazy, but I’m not naive.”

He says he transitioned his own diet and his food business to all plant-based, “because of global warming.”

“I loved meat. I was a butcher when I was young,” he says. “But I also had had a detachment from animals and that has also changed with this.”

He says sourcing materials “responsibly,” including the million pounds of wheat he says he purchases annually, is a priority.

Mr. Funiciello says he pays all employees a self-imposed minimum $15 hourly wage, “and no one is paid more than $17.50 an hour, myself included.”

Cafe tips will go into a communal jar, to be distributed to all employees, from the bakery to counter servers, based on hours worked, he notes.

They are using disposable, compostable dishes, he said — adding that he has yet to find a composing entity that will take the used materials. — Cathy DeDe

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