When Julie Ludwig decided she wanted to open her own business, she first envisioned a delivery-only food service catering to the lunch-hour crowd in downtown Elkhart. The “Lunch Ladies” would wear brightly colored clothes that would make them stand out as they delivered lunch on their bicycles.
But that changed as soon as she visited the Middlebury Street storefront that used to house Antojitos Mexicanos.
“We were going to rent a kitchen that wasn’t used during the day, and then I found the café, and within 24 hours the business model evolved,” Ludwig said. “It’s still the same thing with free delivery downtown, good food – same kind of food – but now I have seating and I can do catering. When I found this place, I knew it was exactly the right one.”
Ludwig signed the lease on Sept. 11 and Julie’s Cafe opened less than a month later on Oct. 8. Ludwig’s mother, Jean, and son, Brian Holt, helped her brighten the seating area with a coat of mint-green paint, and Ludwig hopes to decorate the space with pieces for sale by local artists.
Although her business plans have changed drastically over the past few months, Ludwig says she is dedicated to a simple, affordable menu that’s sure to please everyone.
“If you’ve got five dollars in your pocket, and you want something for breakfast, you can find it here,” Ludwig said. “Not everybody can afford $10 or $12 for lunch everyday. That’s why I’m trying to make my menu very affordable, because I know what it’s like to have to watch your money. I don’t want to spend a lot of money, but I still want something good.”
For now, Julie’s Cafe offers eggs and pastries for breakfast until 11 a.m. and soups, salads and sandwiches for lunch. Customers looking for a snack can choose from options like chips and salsa, yogurt and hummus or pita chips. Baked treats made by Ludwig’s mother, Jean, will also be available for sale, and the cafe offers an expanded menu for catering orders.
Ludwig, who has decades of experience in bars and restaurants and most recently worked at Half Time Sports Bar, said she’s excited to have a place of her own, not to mention better working hours.
“At my age, I want to be busy, but I don’t want to be awake at four o’clock in the morning anymore,” Ludwig said. “I’ve cooked and fed people for years. But to me it’s just like cooking for your family when you’re back there. And that’s why I kept it simple.”
If you go…
What: Julie’s Cafe
Where: 102 Middlebury St., Elkhart
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday