“There was nowhere to eat breakfast besides the Dutch Mill,” says Acoy Cofino, recalling the difficulty he used to have finding tasty morning eats when he drove his kids to Shelburne’s Lake Champlain Waldorf School. So he and his wife Samantha decided to open the Open Arms Café. “At first we wanted to open a juice bar,” Cofino confides, but the lack of other edible options convinced the couple, both 34, that offering breakfast sandwiches, omelettes and Cuban sandwiches — plus a selection of colorful juices — was the way to go.
Lack of restaurant experience didn’t stop them. “Samantha is an artist,” Cofino relates. “I was a land surveyor.”
When a spot on Harbor Road became available in 2007, they liked it so much they opted to buy the whole building. Located just steps from busy Route 7, the downstairs now boasts a bright, sunny café and a new commercial kitchen, while the family makes its home upstairs.
Throughout the start-up process, the pair had help from community members and fellow Waldorf parents. And not just any Waldorf parents. Christophe Lissarrague, former chef-owner of Christophe’s on the Green, helped set up the kitchen. “He’s been a lot of help,” remarks Cofino. So has memoirist and educator Linda Furiya, who makes the soups they sell on Friday. Now she’s making a chicken-broth-and-dumpling edition; come winter, she’ll be whipping up a warming hot ’n’ sour.
In turn, the Cofinos strive to support local farmers and food producers. “Originally we were going to do vegetarian, but there are so many meat and dairy farmers around that we had to use them,” Acoy says. Their products show up in the coconut apple ginger smoothies, the “VT Farmer” omelettes and Acoy’s Cuban specialties.
This Saturday, at the OAC’s grand opening, hungry music lovers can chow down to the sounds of Seth Yacovone, Mango Jam and “our neighbor Dawna,” Acoy says of local musician Dawna Hammers.