CARBONDALE — You’re all invited to a birthday party, all of you who know and love the Longbranch Café and Bakery and anyone who’s yet to visit. The Carbondale café and bakery, known as The Branch, will be 20 years old on April 15 and is hosting an all-day celebration, including free chocolate cake and a special brunch and dinner menu.
“Everyone is welcome,” said Elaine Ramseyer, who's been the general manager of The Branch since the day they opened as a small and smoky college-crowd coffeehouse on the “Levee.”
“Our block was formerly considered the wrong side of the tracks,” she said. “Now it’s the hippest part of town with two restaurants, two bars, an advertising agency, a Mexican grocery store and an organic grocery store.”
If you know The Branch, you know Elaine. She’s the heart of the business and its guiding light. She’s been there since the beginning along with head barista Wil Davis and former bakery manager Monica Murray. The chef and operations manager, Andrew Guyton, has worked at the Branch for more than 10 years.
Initially, there was a general skepticism that a vegetarian restaurant could succeed, Ramseyer said. Of course, that opinion faded quickly as patrons discovered and devoured their fresh, farm-to-table food and to-die-for homemade desserts, and more and more “townies” became regular customers.
“Our day-to-day activities revolve around making and serving delicious, healthy food,” she said. “We make virtually everything by hand, and whenever possible, use organic and locally grown products that support sustainable agriculture.”
Still, all that can be said about the food at The Branch is only a small part of its 20-year story and why so many people are so loyal.
The Branch is a bridge that brings people together, a place where diverse members of the community gather and learn more about one another.
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Perhaps you’ve been to a Friday night salsa dance. Maybe you’re a member of the Blue Billies Literary Salon, a support group for writers that meets monthly in the back room. Maybe your artwork has been exhibited on the walls.
You’ve probably brought loved ones there to celebrate, or you’ve met friends there, or you’ve had business meetings there. Perhaps, for you, The Branch is just a nice place to stop, sit, sip and nibble while you enjoy the ambiance.
All are welcome at The Branch: The townies and the college crowd, the business community and the rank and file, the creative and the critical.
“Our broader focus at the Longbranch is building community,” Ramseyer said. “We have a very eclectic mix here, and that’s how we like it.”
In 2002, the Branch launched the Historic Town Square Business Coalition; and in 2009, Art Around the Square. In 2012, the Branch helped coordinate the Friday Night Fair with Carbondale Main Street, and in 2013, helped found the Downtown Arts Coalition.
The Branch regularly contributes to local causes and every year for 18 years, hosts the For Kids’ Sake Art Auction, a fundraiser for children’s orphanages and schools in Bangladesh.
There are almost as many reasons to love the Branch as there are people who do. If there is one common thread, it’s the memories that have been made there. That’s what connects so many of us to the Branch. That’s what makes it a part of our lives and a place that we truly care about.
The party on April 15 will celebrate 20 years’ worth of memories. Your memories are included, of course, so come and share. You’ll be adding to the long and colorful history of one of Carbondale’s most well-known landmarks.