When Kym Campbell was in her mid-20's, she worked for several restaurants, and she would dream of how it would be when she owned her own place.
After that she became a stay-at-home mom to Kristopher and to twins Brittany and Lauren. While taking care of them, she would visit coffee shops and dream of how it would be when she owned her own place.
"I was a Starbucks junkie," she said. "And I loved places like Common Grounds in Branford. I used to visit all sorts of different coffee shops when we would travel and I'd check out the decor and what was on the menu."
Now that are kids are older—Kristopher is 21 and the twins are 18—Campbell decided it was time to make her dream come true. She took a job at RJ Cafe in November as a manager, with an eye to buying the business. Last month she did just that and this month she's busy making it her own.
The cafe, adjacent to RJ Julia Booksellers on the Boston Post Road in the heart of Madison's retail district, was run by La Rosticceria in Guilford. Campbell said she is still stocking the immensely popular cupcakes from La Rosticceria. You know the ones I'm talking about. They're right in the display case as you walk in from the store, impossible to miss, the ones that were voted Connecticut's Best by Connecticut Magazine.
But she's making some changes, too. The coffee now comes from Zen Roasters in the Higganum section of Haddam, Campbell's hometown. The tea now comes from Republic of Tea.
There are some old favorites on the menu, and Campbell has added some new items that are proving to be popular, including the Turkey & Avocado sandwich with applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese mayo, lettuce, and tomato. The Scoop Salads are popular as well. You can pick one, two, or three of tuna, chicken, or egg salad. Mix and match if you want. The half sandwich/half soup combo is popular as well, Campbell says.
In the evening, Campbell is incorporating a tapas menu that includes spicy shrimp and eggplant, a bruschetta trio, a prosciutto and goat flatbread, and a margherita flatbread with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. It's BYOB and coincides with the bookstore's recent introduction of acoustic music on Saturday nights in August.
Campbell said the offerings in the cafe are an effort to align the eatery with the bookstore's objective of becoming , where people can just stop by to browse, to buy, or to run into friends, old and new.
Campbell says she loves to bake and cook, and that she's bringing her love for that, and her passion for coffee shops, to the RJ Cafe. She's also bringing her family to the cafe, literally. Twins Brittany and Lauren both will be working there.
"All those years being a stay-at-home mom, I baked and cooked. I'm a self-taught cook. I want people to feel like it's their home away from home, somewhere where they can get great coffee and food," she said.