RICHMOND, Ind. — Bob Anderson spent more than 40 years working for MCL; Shonda Brim spent more than 20. Amanda Marquis, well, she just liked the food.
So, when they open Corner Cafe at the Leland, it won’t necessarily be a mini-MCL, but it will definitely have an MCL influence that customers will likely recognize.
It might be the Irani iced tea. Or the Harvard beets. Or the liver and onions. Or the beef manhattan. Or the Reuben sandwich. Or the strawberry shortcake. Or the chocolate cake. Or just the familiar faces.
“That’s what we know, plus I think there’s a feel for that need in the community,” said Anderson, who managed Richmond’s MCL Restaurant and Bakery until it closed Dec. 9. “Even though the MCL closed, I think that people still like comfort food. I think there’s still a demand for that in the community.”
Corner Cafe will occupy the southwest corner of Leland Legacy’s first floor, a space previously used by several small restaurants. Big windows look over South A and South Ninth streets, and diners can pull up a bar stool at counters that face out those windows. The stools and table chairs came from the former Country Rib Eye, and new light fixtures illuminate wooden tables waiting for the restaurant’s opening.
Leland Legacy residents will be served for a week after a May 13 soft opening, then the restaurant will open May 20 to the general public. It will be open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday to serve breakfast and lunch.
Marquis, who will continue as the executive director for Leland Legacy, was an MCL customer and has known Anderson for years, she said. When MCL was first slated for closing in July 2017 before an influx of customers and support saved the store, she told Anderson she’d like to have him as part of the team at Leland Legacy, which serves residents three meals a day. Then, when Anderson received the call last December about the closing, he called Marquis to ask about MCL employees finding jobs at Leland Legacy, which hired about a half-dozen.
“I always said I’d love to have a cafe,” Marquis said of the Leland Legacy space. “We met a week or two after, and I said, ‘I really want you to think about that cafe.'”
Anderson, who Marquis said showed his character with his concern for his employees when MCL closed, then came on board.
“We kind of chatted about what could we do with this space,” Anderson said. “I have been in food service over 40 years. I looked at a couple other options, and I didn’t think they were going to pan out, so basically plunged back into the food business and that’s what I’m doing.
“You’re kind of born with it. It’s in your blood, I guess.”
At that point, Leland Legacy owner Hillel Shapiro supported the cafe idea; however, he said he was experienced with senior living facilities but not with restaurants. Planning continued, with development of a menu and decorating the space. Finally, about two weeks ago, Marquis said she approached Shapiro about her owning the cafe and renting space from him.
“There’s no way this wouldn’t work,” Marquis said. “We’ve had great support.”
She said potential customers have already been checking to see if their MCL favorites will be on the menu, especially the liver and onions, which will be a weekly Thursday special. Also desserts, which will be baked by the same baker as at MCL.
On top of that, Marquis said, Leland Legacy residents have been excited.
“A lot of the residents love to go out to eat, but they can’t get someplace,” she said. “They can go down and feel like they’ve just gone out to dinner. The residents are pumped, and it’s so much fun to see the excitement.”
Breakfast will be a meal such as sausage biscuits and gravy along with items such as muffins and, apparently, bacon.
“We will have the best bacon in town,” Marquis said emphatically.
Lunch options will include some sandwiches, paninis, roast beef, Cobb salads, the manhattans, tilapia, liver and onions and more hearty, made-from-scratch cooking. Brim will do most of the cooking.
“People at lunch do they really want a good, meat-and-potatoes scratch meal, and the more I think about it, it’s like, you know what, I think they do,” Anderson said. “Shonda and I know how to put the product out. She’s a good cook; she’s very good at that. Consistency is the thing we have to make sure we provide.”
He said the Corner Cafe price point will be lower than at MCL, which he said eventually was MCL’s downfall.
“Everybody always raved about how good our food was, but the problem is it was kind of pricey,” he said. “It really was. That’s probably the main reason we aren’t there today. I don’t think the city could support it.”
Customers will place their orders off menu boards at one end of the service counter, then collect their food at the other end, either to eat in the cafe or carry out. Eventually, Anderson said, there might be curbside service. Anderson said it’s been enjoyable to put together a menu.
The visibility on a busy corner “is the best in town,” Anderson said, and the cafe has a built-in customer base with Leland Legacy residents and visiting family members. Anderson and Brim also have already accepted catering jobs, something that will continue. Catering and special events fit neatly into Corner Cafe’s daytime, weekday schedule
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I think it’s got potential to be huge. We’re excited.”
Marquis said that her marketing background plus the recognition Anderson and Brim have from their days at MCL give Corner Cafe a leg up on success. She said a good product and good personalities providing customer service will be important, as will be the communication with potential customers. But she doesn’t expect a problem enticing and retaining diners.
“Between Bob, Shonda and myself, we’ll do well,” Marquis said. “It was a no-brainer to me to work with Shonda and Bob.”
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