COLUMBUS — Andrew and Stepfanie Caranci were eating breakfast at Stack 'N Steak when Stepfanie, looking through a real estate brochure, saw Picket Fence Cafe was for sale.
“Everyone's dream is always to work for themselves,” she said. “I told my husband, I said, 'I'm going to buy my own restaurant.’”
Stepfanie started out as a waitress at Sapp Bros. Cafe and worked her way up to manager, a position she held for seven years. She left Sapp Bros. in search of her next opportunity, which appeared in that real estate brochure.
That was 16 months ago.
The Carancis initially struggled to find a bank that would loan them the money to buy the downtown cafe. But now, Picket Fence is finally theirs.
The Carancis were sweethearts at Columbus High School and have been married for six years. They remember a time in their younger days when downtown was the place to be.
“It’s changed. I know when I first came here riding my bike downtown it was pretty busy down here,” Andrew said. “Business has slowed in this area in particular.”
They’re hoping to bring more people downtown by investing in the restaurant at 2714 13th St.
“I think that downtown Columbus needs more businesses and I would love to see them stay open,” Stepfanie said. “I'm hoping we can get people down here and get people shopping again and eating and bring back the old Columbus that I know.”
She already loved the cafe's atmosphere.
“I love the feel of this place. The homey, the mom-and-pop local downtown Columbus just really pulled at my heartstrings,” she said. “I guess I always felt really comfortable when I came in here.”
That mom-and-pop feel has earned the cafe a loyal clientele, though it leans toward the older crowd. Stepfanie said she hopes to draw younger people to the business while still making their loyal customers feel welcome.
Their plan to evolve Picket Fence Cafe includes accepting credit and debit cards, building a presence on social media and sponsoring youth activities such as Little League baseball and Scouts.
“You support your local teams and your businesses and hope they do the same thing,” said Andrew. “You support each other.”
Stepfanie said she’d also like to update the decor, which is a little “dated.”
“I think it’s the wallpaper,” she said. “Who has wallpaper anymore? I mean, nobody puts wallpaper in their house.”
At the same time, she wants to keep the comfortable, homey feel she loves.
“That's going to be a hard balance,” Stepfanie said.
Although there may be some changes, they're committed to keeping many things the same.
“We still want to serve home-cooked food,” said Stepfanie. “We still want it to feel very inviting when you come in. I want to know my customers by a first-name basis and I want them to know me.”
Picket Fence Cafe is open Monday and Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant can be reached at 402-563-3915.