Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Rock Hill Cafe reopens for indoor dining, 16 months later

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Rock Hill Bakehouse — in the Shirt Factory annex building on Curran Lane in Glens Falls — reopened Tuesday for in-house dining. The vegan cafe had been closed for Covid since March 21, 2020.

“We spent the past 13 months doing curbside and giving away free bread,” owner Matt Funiciello told The Chronicle.

He said the plan Tuesday was to open at 8 a.m. with coffee and pastries, with the full lunch and dinner menu available from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. “for the first 10 days.

“Then, the return of one more old café staffer will allow us to start up our breakfast menu again…probably July 15th-ish.”

Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Mr. Funiciello says he aims to restart Rock Hill’s Open Mic nights “a few weeks from now.”

Record shop & book store

Meanwhile, Rock Hill now has a record shop and book store, in space that opened elsewhere in the 18 Curran Street building, just south of the Shirt Factory.

“Sweetside Records is our friend Ed Martuscello,” Mr. Funiciello said. “He has had record bins at our locations for some years now. And The Bookhouse is something I’ve wanted to do for ages. When a space opened up in our building, I had to take it.”

“Ed is doing a great job with the vinyl and we are starting to see a small profit in the bookstore as well. My vision is to buy carefully-selected new overstock books and sell them at a huge discount (about 30% of their original retail). I also buy carefully-selected used books and sell them cheaper than they can be found online. Browsing is back in Glens Falls!”v
As for staffing, Mr. Funiciello said, “We are having some more trouble than usual finding good people but we have a stellar core staff. Our base wage is $16.25 an hour, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be for businesses who don’t pay a living wage.”

As for Covid protocols, “We are using the honor system and are providing online ordering, curbside and Doordash for those who feel they may be at risk.”

He said Tuesday night that the day was his second busiest ever at this location. “We had far more deliveries than in house.”

What did he learn through the pandemic? “Many plant-based eaters, like me, really want whole food. They want pizza and soups and salads and sandwiches made from scratch by people who are passionate about healthy flavorful food … and they want to come back inside!”

Also, “I’ve re-learned that Glens Falls is a great place. I truly love and miss all the wonderful characters who populate our area and make the cafe ‘ours.’ I have been reminded that moving here was a great idea. Eric Unkauf is an amazing landlord and a fellow visionary and we are going to make some really exciting things happen over here on the East Side!”

Wholesale sales were huge, then not

Early in the pandemic, Mr. Funiciello said Rock Hill bread was in such high demand that he decided to focus only on the wholesale bread, leaving prepared foods to restaurants that didn’t have such an outlet.

“That was true last year but this year’s numbers are much closer to ‘normal’ which means we have been missing our cafe income,” he reports.

“Now that we’ve spent the six months struggling to make things work, it is a necessity to re-open. It would seem that restaurants who have miraculously survived our state’s lockdowns are doing all right.”

But, Mr. Funiciello says, “We are seeing some pretty disturbing increases in the cost of ingredients. We have contracted pricing with our Canadian wheat for the next year flour and some Vermont organics, but we’ve seen a 10-25% increase in many other ingredients.”

$95,000 in free bread during Covid

During the pandemic, Rock Hill put racks of bread outside, free for the taking, no questions asked.

“We didn’t technically sell any bread retail during Covid, although many people did donate to our Community rack fund,” Mr. Funiciello says. “I would estimate that we gave away just shy of $95,000 worth of bread (retail value) and received about $20,000 back in donations from the community to help us make that happen.”

Besides those “who were so kind as to donate to the cause,” Regional Radio also helped by getting the word out, he said.

Mr. Funiciello said they gave away “roughly six months of 600 loaves per week at $6+ per loaf.”

Now, “we have moved our Community Rack inside of our vestibule. We will not be baking fresh bread for the rack any longer as we simply cannot sustain it, but we will still be putting out extra bread and also our day-old loaves so there will still be loaves for those in need.”

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