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It seemed like business as usual at Cafe Panache, a European-style bistro at 931 Russell Drive, North Cornwall Township, until owner Denise Bollard announced on social media on Monday that they would be closed this week.
“I hope this means the owner is going on vacation,” one customer remarked on Facebook.
Unfortunately, no. The popular eatery that boasted “locally sourced food with a French flair” will not reopen, Bollard told LebTown on Tuesday.
“We closed due to staffing issues,” she explained.
The restaurant opened in October 2015 with chef Shane Morris helming the kitchen. But he left after two years, Bollard said, and was replaced by chef Sharon Barnett, who remained in the position for 5 1/2 years.
A death in Barnett’s family forced her departure last summer, and her replacement ended up staying only until February, Bollard said.
“In a small, independently owned restaurant, it’s hard to give good benefits and make ends meet,” she said.
“It has been a struggle finding a chef who meets my standards,” she added. “Frankly, I just think it’s time to go out on a high note and not be looking for something that’s really difficult to find.”
Bollard said she will reimburse customers with outstanding gift cards for the restaurant. She’ll post a couple of dates on the cafe’s Facebook page when she will be open so they can come in to trade cards for cash, she said.
“I’m super sad about this, but it’s best to go out on a positive note,” she reiterated. “I had so many loyal customers. It’s really emotional. … I just really want to thank everyone.”
French is out, Italian is in
Cafe Panache was featured in a LebTown column by the Lebanon Valley Food Critics in October 2021, receiving high praise for its “simple and elegant breakfast menu and coffee drinks.”
“They take pride in the presentation of the dishes. The warm, inviting interior design is a plus for the diners. The food itself is fresh and well crafted,” the critics said. “You might not know this place is here — there are a few yard signs by the main roads, but you should make the effort to find this place and give it try.”
Bollard, who says she will continue to sell real estate in the area, said she has already lined up a new tenant for the Russell Drive establishment.
“I’m leasing it now to Gabby’s Italian Bistro,” she said. “Their soft opening will be May 25.”
Gabby’s is closing its restaurant at 452 E. Cumberland St. to move to the new location, Bollard said.
“They are just going to do lunch and dinner only. No more breakfast,” she said. “They’ll be open 10:30 to 8 Monday through Saturday.”
The servers at Cafe Panache are upset about the closing, Bollard noted, “but they will all have the opportunity to work with Gabby’s.”
“I definitely plan to eat at Gabby’s, too,” she said.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, I can tell you that. But I think it’s for the best,” Bollard said. “We’re looking forward to Gabby’s taking over.”
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