UPPER PROVIDENCE — When Laura Vernola and her husband Ed Simpson opened the Mont Clare Deli & Market it was the start of a new journey.
In 2012, Vernola and Simpson approached the owners of the property in the village of Mont Clare — then known as the Eagles Nest Deli — about selling the property to them. The couple liked the property and the fact that it was in the town where they lived.
There was just one thing — the property wasn’t for sale.
Laura Vernola, co-owner of the Mont Clare Deli & Market in Mont Clare. The market opened on April 19. (DONNA ROVINS – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
Instead, in 2016, Vernola and Simpson purchased Steel City Coffeehouse and Brewery in Phoenixville and have spent the last six years growing that business.
Then, about mid-way through the pandemic, Vernola said the couple got a call from the owners of the Eagles Nest asking if they were still interested in buying the property. They were.
MONT CLARE DELI & MARKET
Vernola said the process of buying a commercial building during a pandemic was “very difficult due to the fact that most banks were not funding the hospitality industry,” adding she and Simson were initially turned down by two local banks.
A portion of the market pantry at Mont Clare Deli & Market in Mont Clare, in Upper Providence. (DONNA ROVINS – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
They worked with the nonprofit Seedcopa to obtain half of the funding for the loan and received guidance and free education through Kutztown University’s Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center, and the center’s Director of Capital Acquisition Marcia McGavisk.
Vernola developed a full business plan, which was pitched to Victory Bank, “who funded the other half of the loan.”
Once the purchase was completed, the couple began work on getting the venue ready to reopen, including cosmetic changes like knocking down a wall to open the space up, removing some seating and installing a full kitchen.
The name was changed to Mont Clare Deli & Market and the new business opened on April 19.
This photo shows a variety of sandwiches available at Mont Clare Deli & Market in Mont Clare in Upper Providence. (PHOTO BY JACKIE BOTTO COURTESY OF MONT CLARE DELI & MARKET)
Mont Clare Deli & Market, 500 Bridge St. in Mont Clare, serves sandwiches, cheesesteaks, grab-and-go prepared foods, breakfast, beverages, coffee and pastries. The location has online ordering, a market pantry and has just added catering.
Mont Clare Deli & Market also has a brewery license and sells canned beer and cocktails.
Mont Clare Deli & Market owner Laura Vernola, right, with kitchen manager Amanda Barros, left. (DONNA ROVINS – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
On the daily menu are sandwiches named after surrounding communities. According to Vernola, they are the same sandwiches that had been on the Eagles Nest’s menu since it opened in 1993. Everything is made to order.
“We changed them very lightly, switching from Dietz & Watson to Boars Head (meats),” she said. “We wanted to keep something from the Eagles Nest — keep something of that vibe.”
With 1,200 square feet of space in the building, there is seating for about 12 people, Vernola said. She added that the entire lot, including the parking lot, building and outdoor area is 10,000 square feet.
Gianna Roberts makes meatballs at Mont Clare Deli & Market on Sunday morning, Aug. 7, 2022. (DONNA ROVINS – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
Offering online ordering had been a “game changer,” she said. “We initially didn’t have the menu online. Now, 75% of the business is online ordering.”
Currently open Tuesday-Sunday from 8 a.m.to 4 p.m., Vernola said the deli will soon be open seven days a week and the weekend hours will expand within the next month or so.
OFFERING MORE TO CUSTOMERS
Vernola said she and Simpson haven’t moved too quickly with their plans, as they take the time to settle into the realities of operating two restaurants. But since opening in April Mont Clare Deli’s offerings has expanded — and there is more to come.
Something Vernola knew she “had to have” in the new space is a market pantry. She had implemented a market pantry at Steel City early in the pandemic, to offer some items people could grab while they were in — things like bread, milk and eggs. As the venue got back to its more typical operations, the pantry was eventually eliminated.
A variety of sandwiches is available at Mont Clare Deli & Market. (PHOTO BY JACKIE BOTTO COURTESY OF MONT CLARE DELI & MARKET)
The market at Mont Clare Deli & Market is “close to being completed.”
“We are trying to source Pennsylvania products, as well as products from woman-owned and family-owned businesses,” Vernola said.
Another big change is the addition of catering — which was launched in July.
“We have an online form customers can print out and scan back or drop off here,” Vernola said. “We are more of a ‘drop and go’ catering option — not a full-service caterer — but providing tasty food.”
Among the offerings are trays of items like lasagna, sausage, pulled pork, salads, sides, and, sandwiches.
Also in the last couple of weeks, Vernola said Mont Clare Deli & Market received zoning approval to add outdoor seating to the property.
“We’re going to put five or six picnic tables at the side of the building with some umbrellas,” she said. “We notice a lot of the delivery drivers and construction workers sit in their cars and eat. It would be nice for them to have a place to sit and take a real lunch break.”
Vernola expects the outdoor seating area to be in place in September. Pavers will be added, as well as a privacy fence. Vernola said she is also looking into the possibility of adding a farmer’s market on Sundays.
CHALLENGES OF RUNNING TWO BUSINESSES
Because Vernola and Simpson live in Mont Clare, they are close to the new Deli, and only about 10 minutes from Steel City in Phoenixville.
Vernola said the opening of the business has been a “slow roller because I think we overestimated our time and where we each would be needed most.”
Another challenge, she said, has been the increase in the cost of food. Staffing has also been a challenge, she said, “as it has been for everyone.”
“And memorizing 30 sandwiches — I didn’t think it would be difficult but it is really difficult,” she said with a laugh.
Vernola said key to being able to open a second location is the company’s General Manager, Joshua Smith, hired mid-pandemic to help control food, labor and other costs as well as train staff.
“He jumped into this role and has definitely pushed our first location while we focused on fitting out and opening the second concept,” Vernola said.
For more information visit https://www.montclaredeli.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/MontClareDeli.