This cafe has a unique location — inside a nineteenth century train station. The Market Cafe is located in the sleepy little town of Topton in eastern Pennsylvania. When you visit, one of the first things you might notice are the two very active train tracks. The second would be the old train station that now serves as the cafe.
Built in the 1870s, the small building stands very similar to how it did back in the day. Pictures from past decades, some more than a century old, pepper the walls, and the tall wooden ceilings and stone archways are beautiful and unique. It’s been years since trains have stopped off at the tiny building. Yet, today, the cafe is a popular stop for train enthusiasts and local cyclists.
The building sat abandoned for decades until a local business owner decided to try to renovate the station into an ice cream parlor in 2004. A year later, it switched hands and came under the ownership of Leigh Obenski, who transformed it once more into The Market Cafe. However, after nine years, she decided to leave the cafe behind to concentrate more on her family.
When the business went up for sale once again, two young employees saw a great opportunity and took advantage of it. Alex and Jilli Beach, with the support of co-workers, friends, and a very helpful accountant, became the new owners of the Market Cafe at the young ages of 22 and 21, respectively.
Since they took over, the brother-sister duo has kept many things as they were, including the fresh food and daily flavored coffees, and most of the staff.
Baked goods, fruit salad, granola, and more are all made daily and served to hungry customers, many of whom are regulars and are on a first-name basis with the staff.
Coffee still comes from a local roaster, Reading Coffee, and they still feature a daily roast as well as four others, giving customers plenty of variety to choose from.
On weekends, local artists come and play live shows, and artists come from all around the Lehigh Valley to display their work on the walls, and maybe sell a few as well.
The location is certainly unique. The station is nearly 150 years old and the active tracks outside the door are something not many people have experienced. Alex and Jilli mentioned in an interview with Small Business Trends, “The building itself has had a huge impact [on marketing]. It’s a unique building. There’s nothing like it.”
Cyclists flock to the small cafe during the summer as it sits close to many popular riding routes and has become a ‘must see’ stop.
Train enthusiasts young and old come to watch the trains, which speed by every fifteen minutes or so and often shake the tables, and can often be seen scouring the rails with coffees in hand trying to find their freshly flattened coins.
When it comes to the noise, Alex mentioned that, for the most part, the noise isn’t an issue except when taking orders on the phone. “A lot of people come just to watch the trains,” he mused. “They really don’t seem to mind the noise.”
Running a business at such a young age has been quite an adventure for the siblings, but their hard work is certainly paying off.
“My favorite part is seeing the changes,” Alex said at the end of the interview. “Slowly things are building and changing, and everything is getting a little better.”
Some Other Famous Train Station Restaurants
While the Market Cafe is certainly a distinctive location, train stations often harbor some of the most delicious and unique foods and atmospheres worldwide. Here are some of the better known station restaurants: many still in active stations.
Grand Central Oyster Bar, Grand Central Station, New York City
This seafood restaurant boasts that it as the best oysters in NYC. Located in the historic Grand Central Station, it opened its doors in 1913 and has since become a landmark.
Sukiyabashi Jiro, Ginza Station, Tokyo
One of the most famous sushi restaurants in the world, Sukiyabashi Jiro is located in Ginza station, Tokyo, and is led by one of the most famous sushi chefs in the world. Master Jiro was even featured in a full length documentary in 2011.
Stoic and Genuine, Denver Union Station, CO
Another great seafood place nestled in Denver’s Union Station, Stoic and Genuine a fresh selection of shellfish that changes daily, as well as a full bar for people to take advantage of before (or after) a long train ride.
Shake Shack, Union Station, Washington DC
This burger place is far from just another fast food chain. Though they started as a hot dog stand in Grand Central Park, Shake Shack recently began expanding, and now has several locations throughout the East coast. They even offer breakfast burgers for morning commuters.
Image: Small Business Trends
More in: Small Business Growth