By Jenna Hokanson – 2014
Lexington, North Carolina has been my home for my entire life. I’ve never moved or spent as much time anywhere as I have in this town. Even though I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to know about this town, there is one aspect of Lexington that I’ve thoroughly examined: the food.
There is no place in the world that I have eaten at more than Café 35 in Downtown Lexington. Ever since the Café opened in October of 2005, my theatre friends and I have found ourselves visiting it repeatedly during rehearsals and shows at the Civic Center downtown. The Café has been my favorite place for so long, I even had my 16th birthday party there! The reason the Café is my favorite place may be because they have the best chicken salad I have ever tasted. The salad contains grapes that compliment it perfectly or it might just be the homemade chips with homemade ranch dressing on the side. I’m physically having reactions to the idea of the taste at this moment. Although the taste of the food is delicious, one thing that has always drawn my family and friends to this spot is the staff: They never fail to have smiles on their faces and welcome those of us without a question. Although it was always rare for restaurants to be so accepting of rumbustious theatre teens growing up- but Café 35 welcomed and still welcomes us with open arms.
Upon my visits, a nice blonde woman dressed in an outfit reminiscent of the professional women in the community, would always recognize me and speak to me about my pursuits. She always commented on watching me grow up and how she loved what all of her frequent customers were becoming. Once I knew we’d be doing this project, my first thought was to find out more about her instead of always answering questions about myself.
My mom, dad, and I took advantage of the fact that I had to interview the owner of Café 35 and decided to eat some of their delicious foods while we were at it! I got lucky we come when almost no one was there (a rarity) and she was available to chat. She said she’d speak to me anytime and to go ahead and order my food. I ordered my typical Lu’s Crossaint Chicken Salad Sandwich with Hot Chips and walked over to speak with the women I’ve always been curious to know.
She guided me to a nearby table and introduced herself as Linda Gosselin. She explained to me that this was her idea of retirement- that’s how active of a person she is. She and her husband decided to retire to a house on a lake in Lexington and purchase two restaurants- one in Greensboro and one here. “I like money!”, she joked. This coming year will be 12 years for Linda living in Lexington and 10 years that Café 35 has been in business.
When discussing the perks of living in such a small town, she decided that the town itself doesn’t always feel like it’s the best place to be, but the fact that several large cities are nearby allows for places to do fun activities.
Linda agreed with me in a sense that Downtown Lexington has developed significantly. She rightfully states that her restaurant became a starting point for the creation of small businesses downtown. Ever since Café 35 has been around, it became a necessity that the restaurant expand space and hours to meet the demand of the customers, 50% of which Linda states are from out of town on the weekends. The expansion of Lexington has grown as this restaurant grew. As a member of the community, I watched several boutiques, thrift stores, and other restaurants follow, or try to follow, the success that Café 35 has received. Linda in a way attributes the company’s success with the way they treat their customers, “I tell my employees to always pay special attention to the single women, children, and teens. That’s why I was always get so excited to see your group coming back. It’s because we make people feel welcome.”
While Café 35 has been a primary focus for Mrs. Gosselin, she is also an active community member on the board of Lexington. Because of this, I asked what improvements and new innovations are happening in the town. She spoke very generally about the idea of an Amtrak stop finding it’s way in the next two years, which would bring business from other states and from larger cities in the triad. There is also the possibility of Lexington connecting with Norfolk,VA through Southern railways. She feels this would help alleviate the number of people who left Lexington due to the closing of Lexington Home Brands, New Bridge, Duracell, and Cadillac. This event truly stripped the middle class down, but Lexington seems to be working it’s way up. Linda thinks that if the larger jobs were more open for the youth in the community, we’d have more people staying in Lexington, rather than immediately leaving once they’ve graduated college. The new mayor is also of the younger generation and she expects the council to grow into a younger mindset now that he has been elected.
Linda’s outlook on how the community at large can grow speaks to the fact that her restaurant has only been growing in popularity since I first fell in love with it as a young teen. Speaking with this spunky, driven, and well-spoken woman inspired me to look toward growth in my home. She was a true representation of the hints of gold that I’ve never taken the time to find in my home town until now. Her words filled me up. Almost as much as her delicious food.. almost.