Internet Breakfast Café
Opens In Historic Store
Coffee, Community the Inspiration
By MAE LOEWENGUTH
An analyst from Bassett Healthcare and an environmental advocate have been working since 2009 to restore what was once known as O.S. Burch & Son, a dry goods/general store. The historical building, dating back to 1864, is now known as the Freight Wheel Café.
Owners Martha and Paul Clarvoe met and were wed in the state of Maryland. They later decided it was time to get back to nature—eventually choosing upstate New York, where they settled and raised three children.
“I lived on a former farm in Potomac, Maryland and grew up in Montgomery County,” Martha recalled. “It was one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, and we felt it was too busy for us. More traffic every year and getting from place to place was taking longer and longer.”
While renovating their own home in Hartwick—a circa 1856 farmhouse on a former hops farm—Paul and Martha fell in love with the renovation process, preserving what they could while making necessary updates.
Martha’s inspiration for the new venture was an old wooden mill she saw while visiting her grandfather in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She loved the post and beam structure, and how her grandfather had kept the original wood and built around it. Learning that the former general store was for sale, Martha knew it would be her next project. She fell in love with the woodwork and the history behind the building.
“When I returned home after touring the mill, I thought I should see the inside of the former O.S. Burch store, which had been vacant and for sale for many years. We purchased the building in 2009,” Martha said.
This was not going to be an easy undertaking for the married couple, so they asked for the help of Steve Zerby, proprietor of Steve Zerby Design/Build. Together, they have restored the structure to have energy-efficient heating and cooling, insulation methods and weatherization techniques.
“Efforts were made to preserve as much of the historical structure of the building as possible,” Martha elaborated.
“Dense pack cellulose was used to insulate the walls. The radiant ceiling on the second floor and radiant floor tubing distributes the heat on the first floor, from the condensing boiler in the basement. A Mitsubishi air source heat pump is used for heating and cooling in the workspace on the second floor.”
The Freight Wheel Café is a certified Otsego County Waste Smart Business, Martha added, meaning food waste is composted, items that can’t be reused are avoided when possible and recyclables are properly disposed of.
The Clarvoe’s goal was not only to restore the building, but to create a communal space for the people of Hartwick.
According to Martha, “The only place to really meet people is the library, so we wanted to have a space that the locals could use whether it just be a place to work or a spot for the local kids to hang out.”
On the first floor of the newly-opened Freight Wheel Café is a cozy and welcoming eatery, where homemade baked goods and breakfast foods are available. The chef is Edwin Vazquez, Hartwick resident and former co-owner of a deli-style eatery in Oneonta with wife Andrea, who grew up in Hartwick.
On the second floor, there is a community work area as well as a rental space. Free Wi-Fi and a printer are accessible to all guests. A local nonprofit organization, the Angel Network of Cooperstown, is currently occupying the rental space for My Neighbor’s Closet, an all-volunteer thrift shop in which all items are free to those in need.
The freight wheel for which the building is named can also be found on the second floor, completely preserved and sometimes still put to use.
“The idea was to give the people of Hartwick a place outside of Cooperstown or Oneonta, as everything is located there, even though Hartwick is the center of the county,” Martha said.
After more than a decade of work, the Clarvoes officially opened their restaurant to the public on January 23. The Freight Wheel Café, located at 3097 County Road 11 in the hamlet of Hartwick, is open Thursday through Saturday from 7-11 a.m.
Darla M. Youngs contributed to this article.
as a former resident of Hartwick, 1957 to 1963, i am excited to read about this great addition to a great town.
Congratulations to the Clarvoes. What a great rescue of an old building, and what an asset for Hartwick.
This is fantastic and it’s great to see older buildings rehabbed and used. Congratulations to the Clarvoes and we wish you much success with the new venture!
Steve and Sally Bieritz