The owners of a new deli in Old Town Orcutt want it to become the gathering place for the people of the community, and if the initial reaction is any indication, that’s what it might become.
Claudia Stine said she and partners Pam Rowan and Julie Darrah quietly opened the doors of The Homestead at 105 W. Clark Ave. on a recent Saturday “just to let people walk in off the sidewalk.”
The goal was to let potential customers become familiar with the eatery while testing the preliminary setup of the deli that wasn’t even fully staffed yet.
They ended up making 227 sandwiches that day, more than 140 the next, and patrons’ posts flooded social media.
After being open nine days without any advertising, the deli was averaging about 140 sandwiches per day, not to mention soups, salads, a variety of desserts and specialty items.
Their success might be attributed to their experience operating the Cups & Crumbs Café just half a block south on Broadway Street as well as the businesses they previously owned separately.
Stine owns Claudia’s Home Kitchen in Santa Maria, Darrah has Vivid Financial Management in Orcutt and Rowan operates Coffee a la Carte at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
What they learned at Cups & Crumbs is why the three said they aren’t really worried about opening a restaurant amid a pandemic that’s putting so many others out of business.
“We have been able to adapt to COVID pretty well,” Rowan said. “We parked our [service] cart out front.”
Darrah added, “We already had a patio, so we just made it better. We learned how to better take care of the customer. We take their orders at the tables, rather than just letting them order at the counter and bringing [the food] out to them.”
The trio got together after Stine met Rowan at her daughter’s soccer game and began supplying Coffee a la Cart with her baked goods. Darrah’s father was Stine’s best friend.
“It started there and just evolved,” Darrah said.
Part of that evolution was moving the baking operation from the two-person space in Cups & Crumbs to a larger space, and the choice was the building on the northwest corner of East Clark Avenue and Broadway Street.
The building had plenty of space, so they decided to create “something Orcutt needed, a really good deli,” Stine said.
They had a patio built out back, added heaters, a sink, barbecues and tables there as well as tables on the sidewalk alongside the Broadway Street side of the building.
Inside, they decorated with barn wood, antiques, license plates, metal signs, rotating bins from a hardware store and pictures of old rusted pickups, giving it a homey atmosphere.
“We try to do as much homemade as possible,” Darrah said.
Homemade items range from the pulled pork and meatballs to the chicken, tuna and egg salads to the coleslaw and, of course, the pastries like muffins, croissants, cookies, carrot cake and cheesecake — a praline cheesecake is the deli’s signature dessert.
“We use real butter and real eggs, and that’s important — real ingredients like you use at home,” Stine said. “That was my goal.”
A lot of what they don’t make is purchased from local sources — breads that include vegan French bread and hoagie rolls from Edna’s Bakery in San Luis Obispo and cheeses from Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles.
All three partners emphasized that much of their success so far has stemmed from the community support, not only from residents but from other businesses in town.
“We all go to each other’s businesses,” Darrah said. “We patronize each other.”
Once the pandemic fades and things return to more normal, they plan to stay open Friday and Saturday nights to offer nightly specials and live music on the patio.
“We called it The Homestead because we wanted a sense of community, a place where people can gather,” Stine said. “We wanted it to feel like coming home.”
Darrah agreed: “That’s what we want to be — the hangout at The Homestead.”
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.