SENECA FALLS — Bumble bees. Busy. Bakery. Bread. Boulters.
All of those B’s figure into Bee’s Café in downtown Seneca Falls.
The business is owned by a busy couple, Chris and Debbie (Cortright) Boulter. It features a wide variety of homemade baked goods, as well as breakfast and lunch offerings.
“The bumble bee is my symbol. I like to be busy, always buzzing around in the bakery,” said Debbie, a 1989 Waterloo High School graduate.
Debbie was working as a painter at the eclectic MacKenzie Childs pottery and furniture business in Aurora when she got tired of the commute from Waterloo. She and her sister, Pam Bailey, decided to open their own businesses adjacent to each other on lower State Street. Debbie opened a bakery, Pam a home décor store.
Chris had worked in the food and beverage industry for years, including the former Holiday Inn in Seneca Falls. He also ran the former Comedy Club in downtown Geneva and did home inspections.
“We opened on State Street as Bee’s Cake and Cookies, making specialty cakes, wedding cakes and cookies,” Debbie said. “That wasn’t doing it for us.”
She said the couple wanted to add breakfast, but only had a handful of tables.
“We needed more space,” Chris said.
The Boulters looked around and saw the former Zuzu’s Café was vacant. The building is owned by Bruce Bonafiglia; the Boulters reached agreement with him on a two-year lease. They noted that Bonafiglia quickly made changes to the interior the couple had requested.
“It’s been a positive experience with Bruce,” Chris said.
They moved to the renamed Bee’s Café, and opened there, Sept. 21, 2017.
They had 13 seats on State Street. They now have seating for 51 on Fall Street.
The kitchen size has been quadrupled. They now offer sausage, bacon and ham with their breakfast entrées.
Debbie makes all the bread on site, as well as the cookies, cakes, pies, cupcakes, brownies and muffins. None of the menu items are fried in oil.
She has put her interior decorating and artistic skills from MacKenzie Childs to work on the interior of the café, which is now highlighted in bright yellow and light blue.
“The first year went very well,” Chris said. “The second year, so far, has also been good, and we’re looking to grow our business even more. Opening on Sunday mornings seems to have generated traffic downtown, and some other businesses have opened.”
They said their business thrived in the spring and summer, the height of tourism in the region, taking advantage of the community’s historical offerings and the boating hospitality facilities offered along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal that runs through the downtown area.
“It does slow down in the fall and winter,” Debbie said.
The couple met on the last night the Comedy Club was open in Geneva. Chris was running the club. Debbie was there with friends. That was June 24, 2006. They began dating and eventually married, settling in Waterloo.
These days, they stay plenty busy trying to attract new customers and continuing to please those patrons coming through the door again.
“We offer fresh quiche daily and café specials,” Chris said. “We change the menu to meet demand from our customers.
“Everything is made from scratch. The homemade breads set us apart. It’s a lot of work for Debbie, but it’s worth it.”
“We have a good, dedicated staff,” Debbie added. “We’d be looking for a longer lease if things keep going well. Our dream would be to own the building and expand, but that’s a few more omelets away.”
The café has attracted entertainers performing at del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre who stay at The Gould Hotel downtown; the Boulters noted the Oak Ridge Boys stopped in for breakfast once.
The annual It’s A Wonderful Life Festival also brings big crowds downtown — and to the café.