West Haven-Sylvan has a new, one-of-a-kind café. The gabled, yellow farmhouse at the corner of SW Barnes and 82nd has stood on the site since 1926.
That’s the year Swiss immigrant Wilhelm Blatter bought it and the surrounding 5 acres as a dairy farm. Three generations on, the dairy has become a destination nursery. In addition to growing and selling over 800 types of plants and a wide variety of garden supplies, Cornell Farm hosts classes and events, publishes a newsletter and – since July of this year – serves quality espresso with breakfast, lunch and baked goods.
The road to the café has been long and winding.
“Many customers have asked to tour the house over the years and some suggested a café,” says Zoe Blatter, who handles marketing, IT and deliveries for the family business.
Given the Blatters’ commitment to customer service, it’s not surprising that they took on what would become a 3-year project. One major hurdle was getting commercial zoning for the house, which Zoe’s grandfather Ted lived in until his death in 2008. A yearlong study was required to gauge the impact of a café on traffic along Barnes Road. The Blatters also succeeded in registering the house as a historic building in Washington County.
Renovations were another chapter in the process. The best features of the house have been preserved. It was designed and built by a local architect whose wife decided against moving in because she didn’t want to live in the country. The fireplace, built-ins, windows, hardwood floors (protected for around 60 years by wall-to-wall carpeting) and even the entry hall light fixture are original. Now open to the public, the territorial view from the sun room and back garden are as arresting as ever. And the front yard is still shaded by a luxuriant Monkey Puzzle tree that was brought to Portland from Chile for the Lewis & Clark Exposition of 1905.
“The biggest task was putting in a commercial kitchen,” Zoe says.
A well-known specialist on the local restaurant scene, Sean Herron of Big Idea Group helped with planning and managing the renovation. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, cafe manager and executive chef Sara Strong created the Northwest-inspired seasonal menu.
Of course, the café is an investment as well as a labor of love.
“The nursery business is highly seasonal, peaking in April and May,” Zoe explains.
A steady, year-round revenue stream, the café draws people to the nursery while enhancing the customer experience and company brand. This latest foray into the experience economy builds on the established strengths of Cornell Farm – a local, family-owned business focused on quality and customer service and located on a main road in a close-in residential area.
Along with his parents, Ed and Deby, and sisters, Berkeley and Ranann, Zoe is carrying forward a tradition of neighborliness. The nursery brings life, history and community to West Sylvan-Haven while helping to grow the local economy, jobs and property values.
Located at 8212 SW Barnes Rd, Cornell Farm is open 7 days a week 9am – 6pm. Café hours are 7am – 6pm daily.