Eight years ago, when Deanna Ebner, 40, and her husband Lucas Manteca, 35, owned a restaurant called "Sea Salt" in Stone Harbor, regular customer Bob Moffit posed a simple question. He wanted to know if the couple would be interested in running a general store in Cape May Point.
Driving by the property on a whim, they found the property a mess, the building gutted. About a year and a half ago, they ran into Moffit again, who asked the same question. This time, they found the building and property in the midst of a major renovation.
Moffit introduced them to the owner and a deal was struck.
"Bob got his wish; we are running the general store," Ebner says. Not surprisingly, Moffit lives within walking distance of the former Cape May Point General Store.
"We are calling it The Red Store," says Ebner, knowing full well that longtime customers will still call it whatever they want because it has been in the community for so long. Old habits die hard.
The Red Store will be more than a restaurant, coffee shop, bakery and general store.
"We smoke our own hams and an applewood-smoked bacon, " Ebner says.
All of the pastries, breads and baguettes are made on premises by local baker Michel Gras, who also does wedding cakes out of a little workshop inside the store.
"The biscuits, the breads, everything is coming from Michel," Ebner says.
The Red Store will be able to offer birthday cakes and has just booked its first small wedding for October. They plan to do some local farmers' markets this summer with the products they make under The Red Store label.
While Ebner feels very comfortable with running the restaurant, it's the other pieces of the puzzle - the market and the coffee shop - that are new to her.
"I want to be sure we have everything going the way we want it before we offer dinner, the next piece of the puzzle," Ebner says.
On the morning menu, all of the omelet dishes have been popular with their customers but a few highlights might be the chorizo torta ($11), which uses their homemade spicy breakfast sausage, ripe avocado, roasted poblano peppers, sharp cheddar cheese, tomato, onion and fresh crema, and is served on their house-baked brioche with home fries.
Manteca created the menu and added the avocado toast ($10) to the menu for Ebner, who doesn't eat eggs. Melted cheddar, cherry tomatoes, arugula, avocado and cream cheese comes grilled on their house-made multigrain bread, sliced thick to order.
Morning combos are also available: the Continental ($8) includes fresh orange juice, toasted baguette, butter, fresh fruit preserves and coffee; the American ($12) includes eggs any style, a meat choice, home fries and toasted house-made biscuit.
"For me, the menu is simple. It doesn't look simple; it's just real food," Ebner says.
The lunch menu offers a roasted chicken sandwich ($9) made from shredded meat and carrots, cucumber, red cabbage, and green apple with a citrus vinaigrette then served over the house multigrain bread.
The eponymous Red Store burger ($13) is made with Ms. Quicke's cheddar, caramelized onions and mushrooms, tomato, grain mustard and ketchup and served on toasted brioche with house-cut herbed garlic fries.
Portions are what Ebner calls mama bear portions. They are not the tiny French portions and not the ridiculously large American portions. The mama bear is a fair portion.
What Ebner likes best about the afternoon menu is, even though there is no dinner menu as such, there are a few items that could serve as an appetizer and a few things offered such as the grilled N.Y. strip steak ($28) or the catch of the day ($22). People are already bringing their own beverages to sit and enjoy with their meal
Some of the products used in The Red Store kitchen are also sold on the shelves in the store. The tomato jam you enjoyed on your sandwich can be purchased to take home for later.
Ebner suggests saving room for their homemade gelato or Mexican-inspired fruit based popsicles called paletas.
She foresees a basket in front of the store filled with Mexican blankets, that customers can take across the street to the city park to use while enjoying a dessert or espresso in the early evening.
The Red Door has a lovely dining room inside. Out back there is an amazing space with a wooden deck and gardens where servers will take care of your every need. There are also are wooden Adirondack chairs scattered on the red bricks around a slate-lined water course, where customers can take a coffee and croissant to sit on their own.
Benches out front near the raised bed herb and vegetable garden can be used the same way. Emma, the family dog, will be happily waiting to greet you from the front porch or will lie in the shade of your bench to keep you company.
Meanwhile, the rest of the family has moved in upstairs from The Red Store and have become an important part of the community.
"We are looking for more of a lifestyle rather than just a business," Ebner says.