It’s been just about 10 years since Maura Brenin opened Maura’s Café next to Bunnell Street Art Center in Homer’s Old Town. Now, after a decade of serving delicious sandwiches on fresh-baked baguettes, tasty soups to warm the chilliest of days, salads that draw upon locally grown produce, a selection of European cheeses and deli meat and a varied catering menu, Brenin is making some changes.
For starters, she’s joined forces with Melissa Josephs, former chef of Café Cups.
“I’ve really enjoyed doing it by myself for 10 years, but to move forward, I need help,” said Brenin.
Josephs approached Brenin with the idea of combining their talent and energy about a year ago and the two have been working toward the partnership ever since.
“Melissa is dynamic, a go-getter and really organized,” said Brenin.
Dynamic also describes Brenin and Josephs’ plans for the months ahead. Rather than worrying about a post-summer, fall and winter slowdown, the women are turning up the action in the café. Beginning this month, the duo has expanded Maura’s Cafe menu and hours to include breakfast.
In November they will offer adult cooking classes from 1-3 p.m. on Sundays. The fee for this two-hour experience will be $50.
A cheese tasting is scheduled for Nov. 12. It partners the café with Homer Brewing and will be held at the café’s next-door neighbor, Bunnell Street Arts Center. The event benefits the center’s artist-in-the-schools program.
Although the menu’s focus for now is on the newly added breakfast selections, plans call for bistro-style lunch entrees to be offered in the near future.
The upcoming holidays are an opportunity for Josephs to bring her strengths to the catering side of the business. For Thanksgiving, Maura’s Café will offer all the side dishes.
“You cook the bird and we do the rest,” said Josephs.
For the Christmas season, the café offers catering for everything from small house parties to full-blown work celebrations.
Josephs’ cooking career began in Nebraska when she was 14.
“I started in a café that’s now owned by my stepfather,” she said.
Her formal educational path led to a degree in environmental science, “but I cooked my way through college,” said Josephs.
Before coming to Homer nine years ago, she worked for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration in Southeast Alaska. Her Alaska cooking experience has included preparing meals on boats and at Camp Denali.
“I always said I was too smart to own a restaurant,” said Josephs, laughing. “But I feel like I’m finally ready.”
For now, being “ready” involves the two women working in tandem as they iron out their new partnership and Josephs becomes familiar with the café. They also are keeping a schedule that begins at 4 a.m. to accommodate breakfasts.
“It’s a 72-hour work week if we’re lucky,” said Josephs. “It’ll calm down a little bit, but right now I need to be here with Maura.”
What isn’t changing at Maura’s Café is the large selection of European cheeses and meats in the deli case that can be sliced for sale by the pound. Also as strong as ever is the café’s commitment to locally grown produce and to serving cups of freshly brewed coffee from K-Bay Coffee.
Lastly, there’s the unchanging main ingredient that has made Maura’s Café a success for the past 10 years: “We want to keep our customer base,” said Josephs.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.