Cup and Top Cafe in Florence to close, new eatery to take its place

Daily Hampshire Gazette, July 10, 2017 by Nyssa Kruse

FLORENCE — Cup and Top Cafe will close at 2 p.m. on July 20 after 11 years in operation, but the doors won’t stay shut for long. A new restaurant, Freckled Fox Cafe, is to open in the same space sometime toward the end of summer.

Cup and Top’s owner, Helen Kahn, said she’s selling the restaurant not because of financial troubles but because she feels worn out. She thinks a new cafe will revitalize the space and make it more valuable for the community.

“I felt like I was losing the energy to put into this particular venture,” Kahn said.

She opened the cafe to create a family-friendly destination that served healthy, locally-sourced food while also supporting local artists, authors and other creators.

The cafe has an indoor play area for children, a space Kahn said she used to host events featuring musicians and authors. Over time, the number of events decreased, and the typical challenges of the restaurant industry — high employee turnover and relatively low profits — took their toll on her, she said.

She feels a new cafe with new owners is good for the site.

“It’s better for myself and, frankly, the community,” she said.

Freckled Fox Cafe’s incoming co-owner Kitty Johndrow — who will take over the space with her husband, Tom Johndrow — said she thinks she and Kahn share many of the same values. The Johndrows want to keep the family-friendly vibe and continue providing local, healthy food.

“It’ll look different when you come in, but hopefully, it’ll feel the same,” Kitty Johndrow said.

She said the couple will keep the play area and continue spotlighting local creators when the restaurant reopens as Freckled Fox Cafe, but she said they have some new ideas for the space, too.

The couple wants to host children’s events, such as an after-hours Halloween bash and a gingerbread decorating party around Christmas.

They also hope to create a pay-it-forward system for customers who want to donate a meal or drink for those who couldn’t otherwise afford to eat at the cafe.

That attitude will be reflected in the cafe’s tagline: “Welcome to the table.”

Kitty Johndrow said she learned to cook from her great-aunt Fern, who ran a cafe in the early 1900s. The Freckled Fox menu will include some items made from Fern’s recipes.

Tom Johndrow said he’s excited to debut new menu items, such as a butternut squash panini and specialty waffles, which he said Kitty Johndrow has been testing on him at home.

When the cafe opens, he will still work as the human resources director at Yankee Candle during the week and help his wife at the cafe on weekends.

“We’ve never really worked together, so this will be fun,” he said.

The new owners also plan to have a stuffed fox, named Fern, hidden in the restaurant for children to seek out while they visit.

Among the new cafe’s visitors will be Kahn, she said, who looks forward to patronizing the restaurant’s next iteration.

She doesn’t yet know what’s next for her — she joked she is taking a gap year — but added that even if she’s leaving Cup and Top Cafe behind, she isn’t leaving the community.

“I feel like I’ve met so many wonderful people through the cafe,” Kahn said. “I’m looking forward to meeting them on the other side of the counter.”