Walking by Farmhouse Cafe on 615 San Benito Street, it appears to be the same homey spot it was prior to shutting down amid the pandemic in March 2020. Taking a peek inside, however, it’s clear some notable changes were made since the cafe reopened two months ago. For instance, customers will now find a lovely display of books, local art and gifts for sale at the entrance.
“I actually went to [college] for writing,” said Farmhouse Cafe owner Becky Herbert. “My dream was to have a bookstore. It’s still close to my heart to have a bookstore, and Hollister needs one. I have a whole line of cookbooks and things that are geared toward the theme of the food that I cook. I have books about writing and doing your art. There’s literature, nonfiction, self-help, cookbooks, and then some gift items just for fun.”
Prior to the pandemic, Herbert had decided to do a test run of a bookstore inside her cafe. She had purchased an inventory of books when she was forced to close. The pandemic, however, provided an outdoor dining patio that has allowed for extra retail space in the cafe.
The art Herbert sells is by local artists; she said she always has room for art to be showcased.
“If any artists want to contact us, I love supporting them. I’ve sold a significant quantity of art for some people.”
The Hollister native was working in sales for a publishing company in San Francisco when she decided to come back in 2002 to help launch her family’s community supported agriculture (CSA) produce business, Eating with the Seasons. That temporary move became a permanent one eight years ago.
“It’s just in my blood to have a brick and mortar store,” she said. “During the depression, my family survived because my great-great-grandfather had a dry goods store where Mars Hill was. So they survived with that, and I’m going to be able to say ‘I survived during the pandemic with [my] business.”
It was Eating with the Seasons that helped the Farmhouse Cafe survive. And today, when she is not at the cafe during business hours she continues preparing meals for CSA customers and making soup for the Soup for Seniors Program with the help of its co-founder, San Benito High School culinary teacher Mike Fisher.
The cafe is also serving its own drip coffee and espresso drinks, since Calavera Coffee moved to its own business spot in July 2020. Herbert said she acquired the espresso machines that belonged to Mars Hill Coffeehouse.
“When Mars Hill closed, I thought, ‘We need coffee downtown,”’ she said. “So I ended up talking with them and gave a donation to their church. The equipment is great.”
The full specialty coffee menu includes drinks such as a lavender latte, Mexican mocha, and pistachio latte (“that one is kind of our signature one,” Herbert said). Tourist Hat Coffee Company, roasts organic beans exclusively for the cafe’s drip and espresso coffee. Herbert sells the company’s retail bags through her cafe and CSA business. “They’re so nice, they put our logo on the bags.”
Currently open for breakfast and lunch, Tuesdays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m, Farmhouse Cafe still sells its locally sourced dishes—some have been revamped and some have been added to the menu.
Many of the cafe’s popular sandwiches, soups and salads are still available, and new chef Martin Calderon has helped elevate the flavor in the dishes.
“We added a burger menu, which has been a lot of fun. I took my caprese sandwich, and I made it into a Stuffed Caprese Portobello Burger. “
As for breakfast items, eggs Benedict on a croissant and lemon ricotta have quickly become new favorites, as well as Calderon’s version of green chilaquiles.
“The sauce he makes—it’s a creamier sauce than what you would get anywhere else,” Herbert said. “It’s like a creamy salsa verde kind of thing. He’s got it down.”
Herbert plans for the cafe to serve dinner by this fall. Anxious to use the new parklets for dinner reservations, she wants to get a beer and wine license to offer wine and dinner pairings.
“I have a whole Farmhouse comfort food dinner menu,” she said. “I work a lot with Mike Fisher, so that’s one of the things that we have on our bucket list to do.”
With Herbert’s strong background in book sales and the food industry, her goals of running both a bookstore and cafe in Hollister seem quite feasible.
“A lot of people say that they want a bookstore—their faces light up when I talk about it,” she said. “We’re doing pretty well with selling the books, so eventually maybe I will have a separate shop. It would be fun.”
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