For Gannon University students, few restaurants are as convenient or appetizing as the Sidewalk Café. Offering dishes from sweet potato pancakes to homemade shoe-fly pie, the café attracts young and old alike. Soon, however, they’ll have to find a new choice eatery.
Julie Durst, owner of the Sidewalk Café, said she hopes to sell the business soon.
“Part of me says that if it’s not sold by the end of the year, then maybe I should just close the doors,” she said. “The other part of me says that I can’t just close the doors; there are too many people sending me happy hate mail.”
Indeed, the café’s many loyal patrons will be sad to see it close.
Sarah Sgro, a senior French and international business major, said Sidewalk has been one of her staples since she was a freshman.
“My friends and I would go after meetings or on weekend mornings to catch up with each other and relax after running around all week,” Sgro said. “It’s a place that I’ve always appreciated and I’ll definitely miss going there once it closes.”
She said she’ll especially miss the western omelet – a scrumptious combination of ham, onions, green peppers and cheddar cheese and one of eight available omelets.
Sidewalk Café also offers a number of other breakfast plates, sandwiches, salads and wraps.
Matt Kridel, a senior psychology major, said he’ll miss the atmosphere at Sidewalk even after graduation this spring.
“For me, it’s almost another sign of the end of an era,” he said. “Sidewalk has been a favorite since freshman year and now we’re both going.”
Durst, an Erie native and Mercyhurst College alumna, said she decided to put the Sidewalk Café up for sale in order to make more time for her family. She currently contributes to most of the day-to-day operations – cooking, serving, ordering and inventory. Without an accountant, she also does her own payroll.
Additionally, Durst acts as food service manager at Gannon’s Knight Club, where she began working in 2012. She said she has a number of reliable employees who help cover her shifts at Sidewalk.
Still, she found herself working 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sidewalk then going straight to the Knight Club for evening hours.
“I’ve pulled my share of 18-hour days,” Durst said. “I’m overwhelmed and I personally need a break.”
After the café is sold, she will continue to run the kitchen at the Knight Club.
“I enjoy working with the kids,” she said. “I remember all of the people who influenced me when I was in college, and I’d like to be that person for them.”
Although she has no plans to add Sidewalk’s famous pancakes to the Knight Club’s menu, she said she may have more time to put into activities and promotions there.
Still, Durst said, it will be hard for her to let go of the Sidewalk Café. She said she would like for a similar business to take its place.
“I made a lot of friends over the last eight years, a lot of dedicated customers,” she said. “I’ve had a good run. It’s time for somebody else to take over.”
Until then, customers can enjoy the café’s much loved specialties and homey environment.
“Keep coming until we’re closed,” Durst said. “I just want people to know we’re still here and we’re still doing what we do. We’ll do it until someone else takes it over and does the same thing.”