A fresh start, a new name for the WAAWWE market

 

 

By Cynthia Prairie

Jersey Girls inside

From left, Rebecca Lomachinsky, Carol Stillwell and Jane Newall with Lisa Kaiman. The pooch is owned by carpenter John Wright./Photos by Cynthia Prairie

It’s 10 days to relaunch and the four women around the picnic table are excited. Not only does it seem that the summer has finally taken hold in Southern Vermont, but their surroundings are in disarray, a happy dishevelment of reconstruction, rebuilding, renewal.

Across the parking lot, the bright and abstract farm artworks of Jamie Townsend still decorate the white clapboard building that for the past six years has been known as WAAWWE (We Are All What We Eat). Chickens – 250 maybe – mill in and out of the nearby cavernous barn and into the field toward knee-high grasses.

But inside WAAWWE is where major changes are taking place. Along with an updated kitchen, a new ordering window, upgraded retail space with self-serve coolers, seating for dining in and a front door that will become a focal point for entry, there will be new food offerings including fresh fish. The reconstruction is being done by John Wright, owner of Woodwright Carpentry in Chester.

WAAWWE owner Lisa Kaiman  says the changes have been under way for about a year, since the day that a minority “angel investor” came forward with support for her mission of offering local foods and helping local farmers. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without his help,” Kaiman says.

She was able to hire a full-time staff of three: onsite manager Carol Stillwell, who has been with Kaiman “since Day 1;” Chef Jane Newall, who studied at New England Culinary Institute and used to work at Black River Produce’s Proctorsville store with Stillwell; and Rebecca Lomachinsky, a farmer who is assistant manager and website “nerd.”

Beginning Monday, July 1, they’ll be offering breakfast and lunch fare for eating in or taking out as well as dinner items to go. In the near future, an onsite smokehouse will allow the team to create their own sausages, bacon and other smoked meats and fish.

An angel without wings

According to Kaiman, the angel investor fell into her lap when his wife and her friends visited Kaiman’s Jersey Girls Dairy to learn about milking and dairy cows. The woman returned with her husband, who began asking probing financial questions. Kaiman says she explained the difficulty she and a lot of Vermont farmers continue to have in the wake of flooding from Irene. The talk then turned to WAAWWE. A visit there followed, and negotiations began.

Besides all working full time at the new Jersey Girls Farm Cafe and Market, Stillwell, Newall and Lomanchinsky have two other traits in common. Each has at least one 'L' in her name and all are redheads.

Besides all working full time at the new Jersey Girls Farm Cafe and Market, Stillwell, Newall and Lomachinsky have two other traits in common. Each has at least one ‘L’ in her name and all are redheads. Click to enlarge photo.

Months into discussions turned up a common denominator between Kaiman and her investor: The brother of Jason Tostrup, the Weathersfield Inn chef and close friend of Kaiman who prepared Kaiman’s veal for a James Beard dinner in New York last summer, works for her silent partner. “We were talking about the James Beard dinner with Jason and (he) put the whole thing together,” she recalls.

Kaiman says that while she maintains majority ownership, there was one change he insisted on: The name WAAWWE had to go. “I got it. I got it. I’m changing it,” she laughs in mock surrender as though she has heard the suggestion from others as well. The investor “is hoping to build a brand,” she says, based on Jersey Girls Dairy. So the new name will be Jersey Girls Farm Cafe and Market.

Regular hours, competitive pricing

The hours will be regular – 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday – a luxury Kaiman says she couldn’t always afford when folks were part time. “We used to have to pick and choose when to be open.”

She also begins to rattle off a few of the planned breakfast offerings: English muffins homemade with Vermont-grown flour, fresh-made doughnuts, breakfast burritos. Pricing, says Newall, is “going to be competitive … It’s going to be important to keep the prices down.”

“I never intended it (WAAWWE) to be a restaurant because it never worked,” Kaiman admits.

But while that location – in a 50 mph zone at the corner of Routes 103 and 10 in Gassetts – historically is a difficult one, Kaiman says the market has a dedicated local following and “there has to be a good enough reason to stop.” Lomachinsky and Newall say that between Townsend’s eye-grabbing art and word-of-mouth buzz, customers should be happy to slow down.

The new Jersey Girls Farm Cafe and Market will have the benefit of two experienced cooks — Newall, who will be in charge of the eat-in and take out cafe food, and Stillwell, who will continue to create her prepared comfort food for take-home dining.

Kaiman lists some of the comfort foods that Stillwell is known for: macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, fruit pie. She adds that fish will be a new addition, thanks to the investor who hooked the shop up with a fisherman who will deliver his catch, then return to New York with Vermont products.

A large kitchen garden, a permanent fixture north of the shop, will continue to be harvested for the prepared foods.

The market also will continue to sell local Vermont-made products, including milk and eggs from Kaiman’s Jersey Girls Dairy of Chester, meats from SpringMore Farm in Baltimore (owned by assistant manager Lomachinsky), plus greens from Cogers Sugar House in Springfield, produce from Deep Meadow Farm in Ascutney and cheeses from, among others, Woodcock Farm in Weston and Taylor Farms in Londonderry.

Jersey Girls Farm Cafe and Market will hold a ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. Monday, July 1. Cow plops — nobake chocolate cookies — and fresh milk will be served.

 

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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