owner Bill Cieslinski and his business partners Bill Raible and Matt Schweiss aren’t letting a bad economy stop them. They are determined to get Café Telegraph up and running, even though it may not be by the July date on the parking lot sign.
The project on Telegraph Road in Lemay has been coming along for 15 months. An Oakville resident, Cieslinski drove past the vacant building on his way to Café Affton. He knew it was a great location with behind it and a catering company right across the street. Finding out that the building had been vacant for 4 years, he decided to purchase it along with two adjoining lots. However, the road has not been easy.
“It’s kind of frustrating,” Cieslinski said. “The banks can’t give anyone money. We funded it personally besides a small loan at the end. Once you say ‘restaurant’ nobody wants to touch you. I’ve owned Café Affton for 7 years and in the restaurant business for 25 years.”
Cieslinski said that the three investors have $300,000 in the building of their own cash. Raible spoke with five different banks and received no upfront loans, even after owning the building and lot outright. They agree that the economy has changed drastically in the past 7 years since starting Café Affton. They started Café Affton with $10,000.
A huge way the trio is saving money is by using recycled products to create the interior of the café. All of the interior is tiger wood. Traditionally an expensive wood, it was recovered from a flood in Memphis for a fraction of the cost. The red cedar came out of the Hillsboro tornado. A local hardware store had extra wood, so the guys mixed up the patters and made it their own.
“In a pile it looks like nothing, but on the wall it’s very durable,” Cieslinski said.
Green ceiling tiles also were recycled from an old restaurant, and all of the granite on top of the bar came out of a dumpster from a granite store on The Hill.
“We have some left over and Matt has a palette at home. We actually dumpster-dived,” Cieslinski said. “We are being thrifty. We work free every day—it’s the only way you can pull this thing off."
Café Telegraph will differ from Café Affton in one big way—smoked food. The trio is getting ready to install a smokehouse, which will create smoked brisket, burgers, wings, ribs, chicken and more. They plan on having a variety of 10-20 smoked items on the menu.
“We will still have (items like) café pizza and salad, but we want to set ourselves apart from Frankie’s and Gianino’s. We can’t be the same as all of the other restaurants—we want to be a little bit different,” Cieslinski said.
Once the café is up and running, Cieslinski looks forward to getting more involved with the community on the north end of Lemay Ferry. He plans on giving a 10 percent discount for anyone in the military, veterans, police and fire crews and anyone with a River City badge.
“For us we will be able to know who is coming in and who loves our place,” Cieslinski said. “Everyone wants us to open in July, but we aren’t going to open until we are ready—we only have one shot to make a good impression. We are hoping to hit a home run right out the gates.”
Other goals the trio would like to hit 5-10 years down the road are to have a bigger patio and sand volleyball housed in the adjacent lots.
“Really we just want to serve good food in Lemay and get to know the people in Lemay,” Cieslinski said. “We look forward to be able to introduce some good barbecue and good food.”