The “soft” reopening was Wednesday, July 9. A grand reopening is due by early August. The cafe was closed for three weeks of heavy remodeling lasting into February, stayed open while detailing went on for four more months, then closed July 4-8 to be finalized. Dustin and Shannon did most work themselves. Several customers said they are very impressed with Dustin’s craft work such as with the long bar, and in installing wood flooring in place of linoleum.
Now that the cafe is remodeled, Dustin said, “we’re excited.” Shannon said “we’re optimistic this is an establishing people have been looking for” as a social gathering spot in Flat Rock. This is also the lone food market in the village.
The Zlackis had a suggestion box for a new name, for what was Dean’s Market & Deli. They took it over Nov. 1, on Shannon’s birthday. Crystal Smith of Flat Rock came up with Village Cafe, and that clicked. The Zlackis said they value Flat Rock’s heritage, and quaintness as an incorporated village. Cafe reflected the expansion in seating.
They are at the south end of a mini village-like Little Rainbow Row, off Greenville Highway and south of Little River then West Blue Ridge roads. The cafe, at 2770 U.S. 225, was a gas station. Nearby are the Flat Rock Playhouse, Carl Sandburg Home, and Flat Rock Cinema in the Singleton Centre. Behind Little Rainbow Row are weekend concerts, and a farmer’s market on Thursdays in summer.
Many said the pub-cafe further fills a void, as a social hub in Flat Rock.
While remodeling, the Zlackis decided to install a long bar and take a big step. They serve eight craft beers on tap, with several from this area. The best-selling ones will stay longer, and others rotate, Dustin said. They offer Yuengling from their native Pennsylvania, which had the first brewery in this country (in 1829).
They also have a wine rack, six packs of beer to go, and 21 flavors of ice cream. They serve their freshly-baked goods and sandwiches, with 10 featured meals and a special pub menu.
Two large-screen televisions will soon go on the main wall, above the bar. Historic photos and/or images of attractions of Flat Rock are in the works, Dustin said. Henry Boyea’s stylized photos are on the wall.
The airy Playhouse Room on the south side has glamour photos of current and recent FRP actors, such as Scott Treadway. Soon to go up is a colorful poster of him and Paige Posey, from the recent comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Seating in an enclosed porch is between that room and the deli counter, and gives an airy feel. Much seating was added in the main cafe-lounge area.
The Zilackis are seeing how long patron flow persists, to determine each day when to close. “Our customers will decide for us,” Shannon said. They stayed open to 9 p.m. the first night, then 11:10 p.m. last Thursday. “We were ready to call it a night at 9,” Dustin said, “when 10 people walked in.” A busy stretch that day was 5-7 p.m., also for lunch. The cafe opens at 11 a.m. On opening day, two large parties of friends arrived. The place was jammed for much of Saturday.
Lynn Gilboy has worked in the cafe for 18 years. For its first 21 years, it was Dean’s Deli run by Richard and Kathy Dean. The Deans retired. They trained the Zlackis for two weeks. Some of Kathy’s sandwiches are still served. The new menu is more varied and nutritious, such as with spinach and other roasted veggie sandwich wraps and by using low-lactose cheese, Shannon noted. The pierogi, a ravioli-like dumpling wrap, is among emerging menu treats.
Gilboy and several customers said they like the cozy and welcoming feel, under the Deans and now Zilackis. “I’m really happy Kathy and Richard sold to a young (mid-40s) couple, who have many good ideas,” Crystal Smith said. “They’re working hard to succeed. The food is good. The improvements are very nice. This is quite an asset for Flat Rock.” Smith and her late husband Chuck often went to Dean’s Deli in its first year, 1992, while crossing town to check on their home being built.
Other regular customers include Mike and Linda Charping. They love the new (roast) Beef Bleu (cheese).
Linda likes the continued “friendly” feel, and convenient location for after plays or movie matinees in Flat Rock. Mike feels safer driving the three miles to home than coming from downtown, after sipping beer or in bad weather. Mike compares the pub to television’s Cheers, where “everyone knows your name.”
Dave Walker savors the “incredible” Mama’s Little Yella Pils (Czech Pilsener beer), for its mildness. He admires how “hard working” the Zlackis are in remodeling and customer service, and how they fine-tuned their operation in detail. Walker does custom closet-cabinet work. In winter, he helped Dustin deal with the cafe’s frozen pipes.
Josh Laughridge is Kenmure’s golf course superintendent, and likes the nearby after-work hangout. He praised Dustin and Shannon for investing in cafe expansions. “They took big risks to get ahead, to improve this place and fill a (social) void.” He “instantly” befriended the likable couple. He values the pub’s sense of “camaraderie.”
Dustin is a sharp sports fan. He unleashes dry wit, as he gets to know customers. He and Shannon were high school sweethearts of metro-Pittsburgh, and married young. Their grown children are son Tristan, 25, and daughter Tierney, 22.
Village Cafe & Pub is closed Sundays and Mondays for a month, until NFL football season. For more about it, call 692-5770.