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Harpswell Coastal Academy orders take-out: Charter school, cafe partner for student meals

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Harpswell Coastal Academy orders take-out: Charter school, cafe partner for student meals

HARPSWELL — Harpswell Coastal Academy, preparing for a September launch, will partner with a new start-up based at a former Harpswell Neck Road cafe for student food services.

HCA Headmaster John D'Anieri on Tuesday said he has been working with Mac McCabe, co-founder of the former O'Naturals restaurant chain, to create The School House Cafe as a low-profit, limited liability company.

The new cafe will be established at the former Cafe Mojo, 506 Harpswell Neck Road, which closed earlier this year, D'Anieri said.

The headmaster didn't say who will own the School House Cafe, but said he is finalizing the hiring process for the cafe's operator and chef, who will begin in September to serve 120 meals a day to HCA's 60 sixth- and ninth-grade students.

The meals, which will be sourced mostly from local providers, will be delivered to HCA's building at the former West Harpswell School, a few miles down the road.

D'Anieri said McCabe is helping the cafe determine how to use local and healthy sources of food while keeping the costs low. HCA will also reach out to parents and students for advice and feedback.

The School House Cafe will operate independently from HCA and act as its contractor for food service, D'Anieri said. It is expected to cost around $32,000 for the charter school's first year.

The headmaster said the cafe will open to the public as soon as the hired operator deems it feasible to do so, with a menu likely to begin with breakfast items, such as coffee, croissants and other baked goods.

For its first year of business, D'Anieri said, the company expects to receive half of its revenue from HCA's contract and the other half from business with the public.

D'Anieri said when Cafe Mojo was open, it typically did good business on weekends and during the summer, but floundered during the fall, winter and spring, when school was in session.

Operating plans for the School House Cafe are designed to address the low revenue issue the former eatery faced, D'Anieri said, because the cafe's revenue from public business will be augmented by HCA's food services contract.

"It is specifically designed to use what we know is out there in terms of revenue and a customer base during the summer and on weekends and to augment that known quantity with the regular and reliable contract from HCA," D'Anieri said.

Because HCA plans to eventually grow to support 280 students in grades 6-12, D'Anieri said HCA's food services budget, and therefore the School House Cafe, will grow, too.

If for some reason the cafe falls through, D'Anieri said, the worst-case scenario would be for HCA to switch to a regular food services contractor that other School Departments may use, or to hire its own kitchen staff, although that may be more expensive than the cafe arrangement.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.