Market Street Cafe of Portsmouth has become a staple in the city for their casual cuisine, and they’ve recently reached an important milestone —10 years of business.
After the closing of Jessie’s Java, Mary Rase saw a need in the community and left her job in insurance to start a new venture and thus, Market Street Cafe was born.
Her daughter Susan O’Neill left her job at Southern Ohio Medical Center to assist her mother with the cafe, and never left.
“It’s hard work but you do meet good people,” said O’Neill. “Ten years ago, we would’ve never imagined that it would grow to what it has today. Of course none of this would have ever been possible without the support of our customers and the community.”
The duo spent an entire year renovating 212 and 214 Market Street, and opened doors in August of 2006.
“The building was just in chaos,” said Rase. “We had, and still have, a lot of help from Mark Harris at Market Street Hardware, he knew all the building and fire codes and he’s helped us from the very beginning. Any time something we need anything, he’s always there.”
Both Rase and O’Neill still work at the Cafe, and are involved in operations on a daily basis.
“Market Street is proof that small business works. I’ve watched the owners and staff rise during devastation and offer their complete support and I’ve watched them embrace the success of downtown Portsmouth,” explained Main Street Portsmouth’s Executive Director, Joseph Pratt.”They work, and they work well, because they know no stranger.”
Rase and O’Neill said that they’ve maintained a loyal base of customers throughout the years.
“Steve Free has been with us from the beginning too, he plays here every Wednesday and he has a fan-base, they come to listen to him and we have people call in and ask about him,” said O’Neill.
The fresh high-quality ingredients present a healthier alternative to the community, countering the fast-food options.
According to Rase and O’Neill, fan favorites are the Katie’s Club wrap, the Turkey Crunch wrap, and the sugar cookies.
“People like it because they know it’s fresh,” explained O’Neill. “Our lettuce is fresh cut, every morning. We don’t skimp on the ingredients, everything is high-quality.”
Market Street Cafe also supports other downtown activities and businesses. On Tuesday’s they offer a Farmer’s Market soup, made fresh by Debbie Doll, the soup features vegetables purchased from local farm vendors.
They also employ local Shawnee State Students during the semester as serving staff.
“Nearly 90% of our staff have been or are students,” said O’Neill. “A lot of these students have gone on to land really nice jobs, and we’re very proud of them. This is a stepping stone for them, and what we can teach them and what they can learn here has helped them. It’s helped them to make connections in the community as well.”
Rase and O’Neill were recently honored at the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross Annual Heroes Breakfast, held Aug. 19. They received the Scioto County Community Hero Award due to their voluntary service after the building next door, which housed apartments and the Vanity salon, caught fire in late January. They served coffee and food to the tenants and workers who were displaced by the fire.
“We try to do what we can to support our community,and the other local businesses” explained O’Neill. “It’s just what you do. Like when Vanity caught fire, I mean we were honored that the Red Cross honored us, but it’s just what you do. We encourage the other businesses. Anything that opens, or anything that people are doing down here, we try to support.”
In celebration of their 10th year, specially designed, limited-edition t-shirts are being sold in the store. The duo is also organizing a celebration for a later date —to be announced.
Market Street Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. They have inside seating, and also do phone-in pick-up orders. To place an order, you can call 740-354-6020 or faxed in to 740-354-6028.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara