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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Garden Gate Cafe

(Written in January)

Today I visited the most adorable cafe and met the most energetic sweet people.
Perhaps it's because I have a head cold of huge proportions.
Or perhaps because I am in a sugar coma.
Whatever the reason, I cannot seem to make any of the words I want to say about this place make any sense or do it any form of justice.

So I am going to ramble out a blog post for you.  Sorry, all of you are my therapy.  I cannot post it until February 1st when the magazine goes live but I'll include a link at the end of this so you can read what ends up being printed.

And so I give you....

Garden Gate Cafe

I had heard about Garden Gate Cafe but did not recall why.  When I looked up their facebook page I noticed friends who liked them and when I asked a mom's opinion I knew would give me the honest truth about the place, she admitted she just wanted to get there but hadn't made it there yet.  I knew the place would involve cupcakes...but that's all I knew.

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny and found me squinting in the bright sunshine.  My head was a foggy pounding sinus headache mess.  I consciously was making an effort to think full complete thoughts but they kept getting lost in the fogginess of the my head cold.  I wasn't sure what sort of first impression I would make, but I didn't think it would be my best ever.  Especially when I drove past the place twice looking for a parking spot and finally had to park in the parking ramp (when you visit there, do that.  Just park in the ramp.  Notice I said WHEN because you must go here.)

Upon entering, I was taken back to happy spring time.  I walked in and physically relaxed.  This is my sort of place.  Instantly they greeted me and offered me something to drink, I said water was just fine but really, their tea mugs were so adorable and the tea bags enchanting.  I should have chosen tea.

Learn from my mistake.

I wasn't there to take photos but I just had to.  The above photo is of Shann who quit her job as a Dental Hygienist to work for Nancy at the Garden Gate Cafe because she loves this place that much.  Nancy and Shann did not even know each other before working together.  "I have always dreamed of baking and nothing is better than lovin' on people with food. Food draws people together."

Shann spoke the words of my heart.

Shann had on the most adorable rolling pin apron.  She told me Santa took good care of her this year.  As he should have.  She was as kind as could be, wishing me a speedy recovery before she rushed off to the kitchen but not after sitting down to chat with me.

Here is a sampling of their food....

Katie, our photographer who I consider a friend and am so grateful to know, was thrilled to have so many options to photograph.  Usually we are left alone to talk amongst our selves and sometimes to feel as intruders.  Not so here.  She was snapping photos to her hearts content and I was making new dear friends as I sat at the table and chatted with Nancy, the owner.

How did this energetic woman sitting across from me go from being an educator to owning a cafe?

Nancy went to visit her daughter who had a boutique in Chicago.  Nancy looked around and said, "Yes.  This is what I want to do."  Six months later she and her husband, Doug, opened an antiques store in Schoolcraft, Michigan.  They were still teaching and working the store and within a year they had moved from a tiny shop to a house in town to sell their antiques.

Because if you are into antiques Shipshewana, Indiana is really the place to be, they closed the shop in Schoolcraft and opened a store there.  Not long after that, the little cafe across the street from their shop closed and Nancy thought, "Hmmm, a cafe sounds fun."

So she opened a cafe.

Nancy is a ball of energy.  I am quite convinced this woman can do whatever she puts her mind to and would have all kinds of fun accomplishing it.

How cute are their lights????

They describe their food as "Like Grandma used to make, but better."

Their slogan is - Garden Gate Cafe, Where the food is great and the fun never ends.

Nancy just bubbled in her joy over her cafe.  She shared with me how they deliver lunches to neighboring businesses and corporations by way of little red wagons.  They have special cupcake and cookie decorating times for the kids.  They hold parties after hours for groups and showers and birthdays.  They donate cupcakes regularly.

Looking for ways they can be involved and help their community is important to Nancy and Doug.  They are currently selling their beautiful farm in Schoolcraft (that has hosted weddings and has an antique shop) to spend their time and energy in downtown Kalamazoo. Nancy lived in downtown Kalamazoo in 71 and she says she has never seen downtown so alive. 

The cafe sings of friendliness and warmth.  You can't buy that.  You can't fake that.  This group of women love their work so much it seems like an extension of themselves.  The college students and others who they hire to help their bustling business (they cater weddings regularly) have to have a certain spark.

They sent me home with lunch - on the house, anything I wanted.  They had given me so much of their time so I chose something they had all ready to go in the case.  A chicken ranch wrap.  

It was a great choice.

Then they sent me home with three cupcakes.  The Cherry Almond one I am writing about in the magazine - a cherry explosion of moist yumminess with the comforting after taste of almond -, a cupcake filled with Bailey's, and a cupcake filled with peanut butter (swoon).  Just for good measure they sent me home with one of Doug's (Nancy's husband) famous chocolate chip cookies.

I spent the morning with my body half turned away from them, not wanting them to catch my nasty head cold.  But when I left they rubbed my arm as a dear friend would and wished me well.  I felt filled with warmth as I left their cozy country cottage cafe and walked toward the parking garage.  I can not wait to return.

How cute is THIS hanging on the wall?

Garden Gate Cafe
230 South Kalamazoo Mall
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Open Seven days a week except closed on Sundays in January and February
10 am to 4 pm

Offering a full Gluten Free Menu
Gluten Free food is prepared at Gluten Free Sensations in Three Rivers, Michigan

Cupcakes - Cookies - Whoopie Pies and Muffins

Lunch and Brunch served
HUGE variety of soups

And....while I was there THREE separate men walked into the cafe to order food.  Evidence that this place makes good good good food - like Grandma's, but better. 

Garden Gate Cafe Facebook Page

Friendship Farm that is now for sale.

Read the finished article in Women's Lifestyle Magazine of Greater Kalamazoo

You can pick up a FREE magazine at many Kalamazoo locations.  I choose Biggby

A week later, sick as could be still, my mom and I went here for lunch.
We were greeted warmly, even though they were very obviously in a rush. 
The wagons went out to deliver lunch.
Huge displays of cupcakes were getting ready to be sent out.

My mom and I ordered two lunches to split between the two of them.  I ordered tea.  My mom ordered coffee.  I think my tea would have been phenominal if my mom hadn't continually said, "This coffee is sooooooo good."

The little adorable cup and pot are tea. The mug is coffee. I oohed over the colors.
The slice of something? Red Velvet whoopie pie to try.

My mom and I split a salad and a chicken salad sandwich on pretzel bread.

Had I just had the salad, I would have raved over it.  I would have gone on and on and on about how yummy it is.  But I ate the sandwich and I nearly cried when it was done.  That sandwich was divine.

The salad was super wonderfully delicious too.  It makes me wish I hadn't tried the sandwich.

Except the sandwich was that good.

We got a few cupcakes to take home because we were stuffed.

The sprinkle ones were beer cupcakes. 

One may wrinkle their nose at that but I seriously believe those cupcakes helped make me well.

The other is a peanut butter one and a chocolate cherry one (that one was for S1 at home alone while we were out.)

My only sadness of this day is, well, two fold, I was still sick and so foggy in the head.  Second, no photos of my mom and I.  How did we do that????

The place got packed! And oddly enough, the photographer I work with at the magazine showed up with her husband and son for lunch too!  She was impressed too!

Visit there.  Pronto.

Garden Gate Cafe and their staff simply can not disappoint.

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