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Castleberry Fairs

Backpacker's Café open under new management



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Joanne Cortese, Patty O'Shea, and Kate McGovern Gill, the team behind Franconia's new old Main Street eatery. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
February 20, 2019
FRANCONIA—The Backpacker's Cafe at was open for business again Thursday, Feb. 14. The re-opening brought a final end to the long, caffeine-free nightmare on the left side of Main Street.

The Cafe will continue to offer its mix of breakfast and lunch foods, with a strong emphasis on feeding the needs of hikers, skiers, snowshoers, and other out-of-doors types. Entrees include familiar names for sandwiches, such as "The Notch," "The Lafayette," and the "Man-Conia." Curiously, the "Old Man on the Mountain" sandwich is served on Vermont toast.

In the bubble of positive social media enthusiasm last week, one local expressed excitement about the inclusion of a vegan option.

Coffee includes the cafe's own "Backpacker's Blend," from Mad River Coffee Roasters.

The Cafe had closed suddenly the previous year, and it was known that disputes within the ownership team were a factor. Rumors of a vocal confrontation spilling into public were widely circulated, but what was certain is that the cafe remained closed, empty, and unsold for almost a year.

The opening also brings the cycle of Franconia's downtown restaurant full circle.

With the closure of longtime fixture Wendl's and later the Backpack Cafe, the major food stops for skiers and hikers outside of the grocery market and village store had dried up. In conjunction with the closure of the old Ski Shop, several major storefronts were empty or unused. In the case of the Backpack Cafe, no new tenant was possible, while the previous owners worked out their future plans.

The old Wendl's space was filled with Hungry Bear in late 2018 (under ownership of the former proprietor of Littleton's Bagel Depot), filling the breakfast void. Now, with Backpack back in business, the cycle of rebirth is complete.

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