New owners of downtown restaurant stress home-cooking

December 15, 2003|JOHN T. DAVIS

Patty Ferguson hopes a warm and inviting atmosphere, a truly "home-cooked" menu and a willingness to listen to and try out customers' suggestions will turn her Main Street Cafe into a mainstay of a revitalized downtown Danville.

Ferguson and her husband, John, purchased the restaurant this fall and have been busy brightening up the decor and menu at the restaurant in a Main Street building that has been the home of various restaurants since at least the 1950s.

With eight years of experience in military food service and restaurant management experience, Ferguson said opening her own restaurant has "always been a dream" of hers.

"We're trying to get something going," she said. "Our goal is to brighten it up and make it a more inviting environment. We want people to come in and enjoy the warmth and the atmosphere."


Ferguson said she is trying to be responsive to customers' desires.

"If we don't have something on our menu and a customer were to request that, we would do our best to get what our customers want," Ferguson said.

"We have a lot more home-cooking than a lot of restaurants. We're much more down to earth. You can pronounce everything on our menu."

All of the restaurant's soups, pies and cakes are truly home-made, in that they are made from scratch, and she even has a hot chocolate mix that is based on an old-fashioned recipe. Another home-made item is a seven-ounce hamburger (that's nearly a half pound) made with fresh-ground meat, as opposed to the frozen burgers that are common in many restaurants. She also serves Kentucky Hot Browns and makes an Orange Julius-like dessert drink.

"We try to serve a good product and try to be open to suggestions and comments," she said. "We have a few things I haven't noticed on anyone else's menu."

The restaurant offers two lunch specials - a soup, sandwich and drink for $4.95 and a meat entree with a roll, two side items and a drink for $5.95. Ferguson also sells various ice creams, delivers to businesses in the downtown area and does catering. All day Saturday, the restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.

Restaurant is now non-smoking

One change Ferguson has made - that she fears has offended some longtime customers, but pleased some new customers - is that the restaurant is now non-smoking. She said it is just not possible in such a small restaurant to filter out the smoke and keep the restaurant clean.

The Ferguson's restaurant is across the street from the Hub-Gilcher building, which is the subject of a redevelopment effort and the current parking garage controversy. Ferguson is comfortable with the restaurant's location but, naturally, hopes that the building's refurbishing will bring new business downtown.

"I think the location would be just as good as any location, depending on the business that comes downtown," she said. "I would hope that it (the Hub project) would bring more business to Danville, that it would bring in the prospects that everyone hopes it would bring ... bring the growth."

From her Main Street vantage point, she sees a need for more parking and investment downtown, but she realizes that owners must do their part to make their businesses grow. "We have to be competitive, that's part of our responsibility," she said.

The Fergusons have tried to involve their four children in the business as much as possible, hoping they will learn the value of hard work and showing respect to other people. They also consider their employees to be part of that family atmosphere.

"I am very blessed with the people that I have working for me," Ferguson said. "Good people are hard to find with the lack of work ethic we have these days. I believe I have some of the better employees in Danville."

Members of Cornerstone Assembly of God Church, the Fergusons see their restaurant as part of their ministry. When people stop in who obviously need some help, they try to lend a helping hand.

"When people come in our direction, we offer them help. We try to use as much of our knowledge as we can to help other people," she said.

"I guess we would like to be part of a community that wants to build strong relationships, that believes in growing productive people. We want to be there to provide a hand up, not a hand-out."

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