GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – For Rock Hill Bakehouse & Cafe, sit-down business has been difficult since reopening shop in a new, consolidated space attached to the Glens Falls Shirt Factory. As it turns out, opening (or reimagining) a business a few short months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t easy.
Continuing challenges require continuous adaptation. The cafe has rarely had regular indoor business, with customers kept out as the local business struggled with to-go orders and mask mandates. Last week – just two days before the state mask or vaccine proof mandate was lifted – owner Matt Funiciello made the hard decision to announce on Facebook that the cafe would be closing for the next two months or so. When it opens again, things will be different.
“You have a choice,” said Funiciello on a Wednesday phone call. “Are you going to pay the delivery fees? Are you going to pay the increased costs on supplies to send everything out the door? Or am I going to retool my whole restaurant into a Wendy’s?”
No, Funiciello is not planning to transform his cafe into a fast food stop. Takeout has worked well for some restaurants, but at Rock Hill, it’s taken too much extra cost, and also feeds into an emphasis on to-go orders that he never wanted to begin with. The cafe was built as a place for sit-down eating, coffeehouse nights and live music. Now that he can do it without demanding face masks or proof of vaccination, Funiciello is ready to make that dream a reality again.
As of mid-February, Rock Hill’s cafe kitchen is closed for business. The soups and sandwiches that area locals first loved on Exchange Street, and have done their best to support through the pandemic, are on hold for now. The plan is to reopen in April. When it does, the cafe will offer a whole lot more than signature sandwiches – and will be pushing to get visitors inside more than ever.
That cafe only makes up around 20 percent of Rock Hill’s total business. The rest comes from the bakery, which puts out fresh breads sold in supermarkets and used at restaurants, in a roughly 100-mile radius reaching the Catskills, Lake Placid, and parts of Vermont and Massachusetts. A community bread rack was opened that offers free loaves to local families who need them.
That means that struggling to keep the cafe afloat doesn’t mean his whole, oven-baked ship is set to sink. Instead, it’s giving him the ability to rethink what it’s all for.
“I’ve been inside the kitchen for about six months now, and 80% of 85% is going out the door. That means we’re never going to do anything more than tread water,” Funiciello said.
The cafe is adding dine-in plates and silverware, and a full dishwashing station – the types of things that didn’t even seem like a necessity when moving in, but that Funiciello now sees as part of anchoring people to a dine-in experience. The menu is also evolving, adding homemade, gluten-free pasta, and a vegan lasagna that he swears by.
Another part of Rock Hill’s team is stepping up behind the counter. Chef Daniel Khokhar joined the business as a baker, but is now working in the kitchen, developing new offerings from his own background in Pakistani cuisine. Lentil daal, pakora and basmati rice are all set to join the menu. It’s all part of another goal for Rock Hill; using as few store-bought ingredients as possible.
“It’s going to be even healthier food. There will be less vegan ‘junk food.’ Even though junk food is always fun to eat, we would like to get away from it.”
As for the to-go impact, Rock Hill is also making the choice to not accept direct orders through DoorDash, Grub Hub, or any other subsidized online ordering service. To-go orders can be placed only online through the cafe’s website.
As Funiciello prepares for the next step, it’s not without sobering realities in his rearview. In December, Matt’s brother, Josh, passed away. Up until that point, Funiciello had been working 80-hour weeks – which he describes as 40 hours paid, 40 hours not. The loss put many things in perspective.
“I really need to slow down a bit when it comes to work,” he said. “I don’t need to be working this hard. I need to work smarter, so I’m going to do it at my own pace.”
That pace doesn’t leave an exact reopening date for the cafe at Rock Hill. The Shirt Factory is set to start holding events and food truck corrals in April, and the goal is to be back up and running with a reinvented menu by the time that gets off the ground.