Station on Kings cafe opens with California, big-city vibe in Lewes
A new coffee shop will be opening in Dagsboro on New Year's Day. Produced by Taylor Goebel
Leisa Berlin was at a tequila bar in Las Vegas when she called her son and asked, “Why don’t we open up a tequila bar?”
And he did. Chris Mckeown opened Agave on Second Street in Lewes.
It ended up not being the last time an idea sparked Berlin to recreate something in Sussex County.
“It’s all about feeling yourself,” she said, sitting on a chair made in Paris at her newest place, Station on Kings in Lewes. “We want to take you away.”
Berlin is intuitive on building not just restaurants or cafes, but vignettes of what she sees as the perfect place to visit, to vacation, to live.
Six years ago, Berlin stepped into the earthy atmosphere of Terrain Garden Café in Philadelphia and dreamed of building something similar. When property on Kings Highway went up for sale, Berlin grabbed it and built her vignette.
The Station is a cross between a bright homeware store, a full-menu café and a garden center. It has a California vibe from the high ceilings, clean color palette, light wood and a seating area designed to look like a greenhouse.
Patrons will walk into a lofty, breathable space. They’ll tilt their heads up to wooden beams and see a summer evening in the giant paper lanterns. The floor is a simple concrete warmed by natural light and pine walls.
A long pastry case will greet them, filled with what a patisserie would sell – macarons with a crackling surface and hardy chew, pear galettes and golden croissants – with influence from cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York (think cronuts and sticky buns, and flavors like blood orange, passionfruit and quince).
“The caramel doughnut was so good I had to eat it on my way home,” Rehoboth resident Valerie Johns said, laughing. “It’s very light, very fresh. I could imagine myself in Philadelphia eating this.”
Johns, who moved to Rehoboth two years ago, said she couldn’t find a place that sold quality pastries.
“I have been looking for a bakery that provides flavorful, higher-end items and I found it,” she said. “This is it. They’re a class above what I’ve found so far here.”
The family tree has had a lot of success in the Lewes area. McKeown opened Agave, a restaurant that recently remodeled to accommodate more guests, which will help with the long lines in the summer.
Berlin's daughter, Sarah McKeown opened Nectar, a cafe on Second Street known for its fresh pressed juices and the feeling of being in grandma's house. Berlin also owns Edie Bees, a confection shop close to Nectar.
There aren’t servers at the Station. Bussers will clear the tables, but patrons will order their food at one of three kiosks, pay and seat themselves, either in the greenhouse space with Parisian chairs and sunlight pouring in over blooming plants, or, in the summer, outside on the patio.
“We just wanted the casual atmosphere,” Berlin said.
Beyond the selection of pastries, patrons can peruse homeware from around 50 businesses. Colorful handwoven towels from Guatemalan artisans, hand-painted coffee mugs, silverware, teapots, woodland creatures peeking out from dinner plates and bourbon-infused kitchen basics make up a small portion of what the Station offers.
“When I go to shows to shop for the Station I look for young couples that are starting new businesses,” Berlin said. “You feel good selling these things because you know this couple is excited that I get to call and do a reorder with them.”
There is also a refrigerated section with both local and California cheese, from farms Berlin visited herself.
“It was so cool to have these cows come up to your window,” she said, her eyes sparkling at the memory. “These are real, free-range animals.”
Berlin has a cheese board on the menu, and eventually wants to add more.
In the spring, she said she’ll fill the garden center with pathways and fountains, and the potting shed will carry seeds, gardening supplies and outdoor gear.
In the summer, she is planning to host a small farmers market. And when people come off the bike path, she’ll offer them milk and warm doughnuts in the evening.
Boutique-style ice cream – like boysenberry and fig-honey – is also in the works for the warmer months.
It’s frigid outside now, so patrons can slurp up a brightly tinged root vegetable soup and bite into a fig, apple and ricotta panini on cranberry walnut bread. Menu prices are between $7 and $15. Pastries cost around $4.
A full coffee bar offers cappuccino, espresso and café mocha from Philadelphia-based Counter Culture Coffee.
“It just fills you,” Berlin said of the new space. “It’s just a good place to go. I always wanted to do it.”
As Berlin worked her way around the cafe on a recent weekday morning, three women came in, ordered some coffee and sat down. They look like what Berlin wanted to create: open and free conversation, relaxing into Parisian chairs in a lofty California-inspired café with Philadelphia coffee, combining elements to make something new.
It’s all in Delaware, and for the moment, it’s home.