Lellybelle Community Cafe now open, with local produce and artisanal menu
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Visitors to the re-opened Lellybelle Community Cafe can see how new owner and Shepherdstown resident Jay Thomas has already put his unique stamp on the place.
When the cafe’s original owner closed the business on May 19, many people, including the cafe’s employees, assumed that was the end for the cafe.
“I thought for sure it was not going to be open again. Then I got a text from Jay, and was so excited to come back,” said now returned employee Lauren Lohrer, of Shepherdstown. “It’s definitely the new-and-improved Lellybelle. It’s really great.”
Thomas, who has degrees in business and culinary arts, owned Blues BBQ in Charleston for 15 years and Bruno’s of Charleston for nine years. Last year, Thomas moved to Shepherdstown with his wife, Honor.
“Our daughter went to school here, and we made frequent trips to see her. My wife is from Annapolis, Maryland, and she wanted to be near her parents as they are aging,” Thomas said. “I also wanted to quit working so much, so we moved up here and have enjoyed it, so far.
“I looked around at opening a restaurant in Martinsburg and Charles Town, but I really wanted to get a place in Shepherdstown, because that’s where we live. I always felt like, if I got a spot, I could do something that no one else could do,” Thomas said. “When I heard that Gary, the prior owner, was looking to get out, I talked with him [about buying the business].”
Since the cafe already had a loyal customer base, Thomas decided to continue to serve that customer demographic, by maintaining the business name and the majority of its menu when the restaurant reopened on July 19. However, Thomas is committed to the business being a vegetarian restaurant, with many vegan options.
“What I’m going to do, is to keep everything, but expand what we’re going to do,” Thomas said. “We’re going to keep the Black Dog coffee and South Mountain ice-cream. We’re using M Street Bakery in Ranson for some bakery products. Our local produce supplier is Panhandle Growers.”
Having fresh, local produce will inspire Thomas’ menu, as it transforms with the change of seasonal produce. Already, the fresh produce and Thomas’ new ideas can be seen in his sandwich selection, which includes a Jackfruit Barbecue Panini with Avocado Slaw and Eggplant Parmesan Panini.
“I changed the sandwiches a bit,” Thomas said, mentioning he visited a few aa bowl restaurants for inspiration, on a recent trip to Atlanta, Ga. “I’m going to get a little more into aa bowls — they’re so nutritious. I think they’re terrific. I’m going to introduce some green bowls with kale and other foods with antioxidants — flavorful stuff. The bowls are going to be our focus.”
While Thomas’ previous restaurant experience was focused on comfort food, Thomas said he was determined that his next restaurant would offer healthier options.
“When I was in the barbecue business, I was there for a long time. During my last three years, I thought I was contributing to the [unhealthy eating] problem,” Thomas said, mentioning that he now eats a mostly pescatarian diet. “I swore that the next place I opened would be nutrition-focused. I wanted to do something that I feel really good about, that’s full of flavor and happy clientele.”
To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/lellybellecafe/, call 304-702-9322 or visit the cafe at 104 East German Street.