February 15, 2012

Do you like this?

If you’ve lived in Easton for more than a few years, you’ve been through enough reincarnations of coffee houses on 1 Goldsborough Street to wonder why this little town can’t get it right: dingy walls, curtains hiding the big storybook windows, coffee orders sitting on the counter getting cold, and lunch offerings dwindling. Over the past few years, Coffee East became Coffee Cat without many outward updates or fanfare; in January, Coffee Cat became Red Hen Coffee House and Café, with hopes of bringing back Easton’s central meeting place.

“When we saw the coffee shop for sale we immediately knew it was a perfect fit for what we wanted to do,” Sara Ewing, one of Red Hen’s new owners, along with her husband Justin, explains.

The newly remodeled Red Hen Coffee House and Café boasts new, warm wooden floors, a golden marshmallow color on the walls, deep red accents on the pillars and woodwork, and the vibrant canvases of local artist Theresa Schram adorning the space. It is more than superficial sophistication—finally, like a neglected stepchild freshly bathed and clothed in new duds, the space feels cared about.

On Saturday, February 11, despite the falling snow and whipping wind, Red Hen hosted its grand opening, complete with coffee tastings, food samples, and a performance by Kentavius Jones. Regulars who have used the coffee joint as an office space, as well as curious Eastonians and fellow downtown business owners, ventured in to catch a glimpse of the new java incarnation.

Sara and Justin Ewing, who greeted people at the event, were long ago destined to open a cafe. Their paths crossed when Sara worked at Annie’s on Kent Island and Justin, who was the general manager of Holly’s on Kent Island at the time, became a regular. Ten years later, the couple is “cultivating a long-held dream,” according to Sara.

Sara remembers with nostalgia Alice’s Café, a casual diner on Harrison Street that used to cater to the casual customer with its mismatched chairs and silverware. “We have missed having a great casual place to eat in Easton and we want to bring that back.”

As both Ewings see it, they bought a great business with a well-established live music component and a coffee following. Their focus is now on bringing the food up to par. They have turned the larger dining space into a bright eating area, dressed up with white tablecloths, bringing a café ambiance to the former day-after-a-rough-night cruddiness. Patrons will order food at a different counter than drinks, expediting the service and delineating the space. The kitchen is still under renovation and the full menu will be on display in the coming weeks.

“We want to take standard food, like soups and sandwiches, and make them really special,” Sara explains. Red Hen will feature fresh, homemade offerings with seasonal ingredients. Sara raves about Justin’s rosemary foccacia bread and says that one day, Red Hen may sell fresh bread.

Justin, a graduate of the Baltimore International Culinary College, is in the kitchen while Sara, who holds an MBA from Salisbury, is the marketing director. Justin plans on spending five days a week at Red Hen, while Sara can be found there many evenings and weekends. “I was a little worried about partnering with my husband because I feared it would have a negative impact on our relationship,” Sara states. “It has definitely brought us closer together, and that has been an unexpected joy.”

The café's nighttime concert venue will remain, continuing to bring live bands and comedy shows to downtown. For now, the promotion and selling tickets will operate under the name "Night Cat," but eventually Sara sees it coming under Red Hen's brand.

What will make Red Hen different this time, the Ewings explain, is their connection to customers. “We want feedback. We aren’t above busing the tables.” Sara is working on partnerships with other downtown businesses and hopes to one day be able to offer later weeknight hours.

Named for the children’s story about making bread and the commitment to see it through, Red Hen may have found the recipe for 1 Goldsborough's success.


February 15, 2012

Comments (11)

Comment Feed

Red Hen is much better these days.

The previous owners were kinda rude to the Friday Morning Artists group that meets there.
And actually drove us away for a while, meaning they actually drove away $50 to $75 worth of sales every Friday morning. Real smart business sense that is.
The new owners are great Justin actually comes in and talks to us about things, The last one only did to tell us not to move tables and chairs.
Now if only Justin and Sara would let us hang our work and have shows again.

Rocketwolf more than 1 years ago


I visited the other day for lunch, I love the coffee and the breakfast but I felt the lunch menu was just ok. The sandwiches are a bit pricey for what they are. The pastrami was just meat and bread. I think for the price they could be made just a bit more special with a sauce or cheeses. The breakfast burrito for example, very good, the ingredients make it special and I am will to pay the $6.50 for that. Just a comment as I know you are trying to work on the food.

CR more than 1 years ago

Endless possibilities...

As a former employee of Coffee East, I find The Red Hen Cafe to be remarkably on point! The coffee and teas are great. After the update, it is clean and fresh. A better food selection would be nice but I hear that is to come in the near future.
Coffee East was a warm place with a great team of employees that complimented the wonderful community we were there to serve. I have high hopes that Red Hen Cafe will bring that relationship back to Easton! Justin Ewing is an amazing cook and full of personality. With the proper kitchen this little place will be not just a fantastic hang out for the community but a fun, tasty cafe to visit with friends and family.

Stephanie Thompson-Leitzer more than 2 years ago

Red Hen Story

I agree that the story was unfair to the previous owners. It was not a bad place, and they worked hard to update it. They also had Night Cat.

I have to say that I like a coffee house that is urban. I missed the atmosphere of Coffee East. It was a bit run down, but it seemed to always be teaming with people. I liked that there were posters and flyers and cards displayed for community activities, used books for sale and board games for people who are hanging out on a rainy day, and the frequently changing artwork showcasing a different local artist.

ALE more than 2 years ago

Reply to CRK

Dear CRK,

Thanks so much for stopping by last Saturday. We want you to know that the food menu is a work in progress due to the ongoing kitchen renovation. This location has never had proper kitchen equipment to cook a hot breakfast on. We are installing a hooded cooktop which will allow us to prepare hot breakfast as well as many other menu items.

In the mean time, we feel it best to offer what we can do well so that we don't sacrifice quality in an effort to put out a full menu. We will be sure to let you know when the kitchen is complete and we would love for you and your friend to give us another try.

Sara Ewing more than 2 years ago

Tried to eat here...

My friend and I tried to get coffee and breakfast here last Saturday morning. The shop was plain and uninviting and they did not have food for breakfast except for bagels. We were disapointed and went to Darnell's.

CRK more than 2 years ago

Tried to eat here...

My friend and I tried to get coffee and breakfast here last Saturday morning. The shop was plain and uninviting and they did not have food for breakfast except for bagels. We were disapointed and went to Darnell's.

CRK more than 2 years ago

Red Hen

I agree with Mike--a quality community coffeehouse would bring me downtown more often. This article reflects a common view of 1 Goldsborough's previous incantations. Not bad, just not something you'd go out of your way for. I'm excited to see how Red Hen fares. Good luck!

LMS more than 2 years ago

Great Article

I find the first gentleman's comments interesting. While there isn't an abundance of downtown parking spaces (especially if the farmer's market is open) there are plenty of spots for those willing to look for them. Whatever happened to the concept of parking your car in one location and walking? Even with kids in tow, this can easily be accomplished. Additionally, I don't believe the article was bashing the previous owners, but pointing out differences in design and menu offerings than the previous owners.

SEA more than 2 years ago

An unfortunate article

Rather than unfairly beating on the prior owners, who spent a huge amount of time, money and effort to continue to improve the coffee shop, a smarter focus would have been whether Easton can support its downtown businesses.

The continued focus on adding more car-friendly locations on the edges of town has been eroding the viability of the downtown for years. I certainly hope that the Ewings find the magic formula and succeed long term in that space. But it's more complicated than simply repainting (again), revising the menu (again), and trying to get other merchants involved (again).

Dave Lewis more than 2 years ago

Best of luck

I hope Sara and Justin have great success. A quality coffeehouse is long overdue in Easton. I'm a Starbucks fan but would gladly break my brand loyalty for a good alternative that provides service without an edge. Complimented with consistently good food would increase the attraction. Best of luck and I look forward to visiting.

Mike Thielke more than 2 years ago

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