Albany Cafe Serves Home Cooking And Memories

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The Albany Café reopened old school house doors in the Albany School nearly two years ago. 

Since then this home-cooking eatery has become a favorite of both those new to the town and those who have fond memories of their years as students in the building.

“Eighty percent of all new restaurants fail and I went into it with a 50/50 expectation.”

Despite those odds Amy Foster decided to take the chance and open the Albany Café inside the very appropriate surroundings of the old school’s cafeteria. 

The design and the fixtures were some of the things going for her, and there was the prospective clientele.

“I knew we stood a little better chance than most because Albany is very good at receiving people and it's just a very welcoming spot but when you open up a restaurant in a bad economy and an area that's not overly well-to-do, you take your chances.”

So Foster closed out her retirement from jobs at the OU Inn and Hocking College and put in a bid with Capstone, the owner of the building, to open her business.

“Capstone ran an ad in the paper and they had you walk through the building and they said ‘if it was your building what would you do with it.’”

“I just knew that Albany was in need of a good home-cooking restaurant so I told them what we had in mind and three months later we had a restaurant.”

The doors opened in March 2012 with a mix of family and friends to cook and serve the customers.

One of the first to come on board was Diana Kovach who worked next door at the soon-to-be-shuttered Russell Nursing home. 

“She came up the day we opened and she had never waited tables,” Foster said but that wasn’t a problem.

“She is so wonderfully pleasant and just a peach so I thought we just have to have her.”

Kovach said the atmosphere is “family-ish.”

“It doesn't feel like I'm going to a job-job; it feels like I'm going to go hang out with my buddies and my family.”

Others from the community followed.

“Miss Jenny who does all of our desserts has been in this community 50 years, everybody knows miss jenny – she came to me.  Of course my sister Peggy waits tables and you’ve got to have a little family to watch your back and I have the best cooks in the world.”

“Mindy's been here since August,  my other cook has been with me since day one so we're a pretty tight-knit little bunch, we like each other a lot which is always a good thing so coming to works not quite so bad when you're here.  You get to snack on great food all day get good regulars, we're all a pretty happy bunch.”

Biscuits and gravy is the most popular breakfast selection.

“Made from scratch every morning,” Foster announces.

And chicken parmesan is what people want most for dinner – made the “old-fashion way.”

But food is only part of the Albany Cafe's attraction. 

Memories are here too and they’re free of charge.

“It happens at least once a day somebody will walk in and say 'this place is so much smaller than I remember,' because they were kids and it seems so big when you were in the milk line,” Foster nods her head to a side room where that milk line used to form.

“A lot of my regulars went to school here and I think it gives them those good warm-fuzzy memories and that may be a good part of why I see them every day.”

Even if you didn’t go to school here there are special decorations and items on display to make the visit an experience.

Lining the walls are model cars, a tricycle and curiosities – a museum.

“A lot of the community just brings up antiques or old things or just neat things for customers to look at.  If it has a tag on it it's for sale but if not it's just for show,” Kovach said.

With the Café’s success, plans are being made for the future, but Foster’s not making those plans public – at least yet.

“You know you never want to say anything out loud for fear that they don't come true like you don't give your Birthday wishes out when you blow out the candles, but we have little plans in the works,” Foster said.

For the regulars she quickly adds:

“It will be right here in the community and I think we'll be here for a long time.”