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Shop Talk

May 15, 2010

Shop Talk: Cassie's Cafe

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Bob Ackershoek of Cassie's Cafe in Roxbury.

How long have you lived in the area?

We moved to the area in 1983. Before that, we were in New Jersey.

Tell me about your business:

We serve breakfast and lunch. We roast our own turkey breast. We also roast our own roast beef. We double-grind our own top-round burgers. What double-grinding does is it redistributes the fat when you grind it up to even out the flavor. Cassie bakes breads, rolls, cakes, pies, muffins, cookies. It's a casual atmosphere.

Describe a typical day in your business:

It starts out with Barney Bruno coming in at 6 o'clock every morning. He was our first customer when we opened, he's our first customer every morning. He's followed by the rest of the 6 o'clock coffee people. Then the 8 o'clock coffee people come in. When we're closed they go through incredible withdrawal. It progresses through breakfast, lunch. The consistent thing is those 6 and 8 o'clock people. They're here every morning.

How did you get started in this line of work?

Cassie had Cassie's Kitchen in Andes for 11 years before we did this. It was pretty much the same thing. The food has pretty much stayed the same. We still get people who drive over from Andes to have lunch. It's about an hour round trip. People always liked what we were doing, so we kept doing the same thing. People will say the home fries are the best they've ever had. People have enjoyed what we've done, so we've continued to do what they've enjoyed.

Where do you see this business in five years?

I would think we're going to be here making more breakfasts and lunches. We wouldn't mind doing dinner, but we'd have to find someone who could do dinners. It's not going to be us. I get up at 3:30 in the morning, and I definitely will not be staying up.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

Two years ago in 2008, we had done rather intense renovations in the village, and people were clamoring to see what it was going to look like. And for Memorial Day weekend, when we opened, we handed out cookies. People were wanting to see it in the worst way. It had been the same place for 60 years.

Actually, I'll tell you my personal most memorable moment. Without a doubt it was Bud Gile coming down. Bud was the owner of the place before us. He started after World War II. It was a clothing store, and he put in a breakfast counter. So they had clothing and food. So when you bought boots, they smelled like breakfast. He would run to be with the 8 o'clock counter with the guys. But he passed away about two months ago. He was just a happy guy who was so happy to be here. He was the funniest guy. I've never met anyone who said anything negative about him. He was an amazing man.

It's an amazing thing when you get to hang with these people every day. The 6 o'clock people wanted to get together and do something for Christmas. They become family more than anything else.

What is the most enjoyable part of what you do?

Seeing people that you haven't seen in a while come and enjoy themselves. The basic premise of this place was supposed to be folks meeting folks. And that's what it's about, the people. There are a lot of characters in the Catskills. We had a Civil War re-enactor come in who's about 70. He and his friend are on chemo and aren't in the best of shape, but they like to come in here, talk with people, talk with the waitress, read the paper. But that's what the Catskills are all about. I always thought we moved to the Catskills for the people who live here.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

Well, one of the disadvantages is that you don't have the masses of people you'd have if you were downstate. You have less people. You're dealing with locals and weekenders. Basically, what's at the top of our menu board is we serve simple food done right. I think locals (and) weekenders appreciate that. You get the warmer weather and there are an awful lot of people around, which is always a nice thing.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I think there's a different attitude. I think the thing that sets us apart is that we have consistently good food. Our owner is the cook. Any time you go into the kitchen, Cassie's cooking. Consistency is a big thing. You've got Cassie here cooking and that's it.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

Find your niche and go for it.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Cassandra Miller. To reach Miller, e-mail cmiller@thedailystar.com. For more information about Shop Talk, call Emily F. Popek at 432-1000, ext. 217.

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