David Coleman and Greg Frost have made their Old Post Office Café in Brooklet the base for a catering business known to wedding and event planners from Statesboro to St. Simons.
Neither has the resume of a born restaurateur. Coleman worked 26 years as an accountant and earned his master's of business administration, and his bachelor's as well, from Georgia Southern University.
A graduate of Southeast Bulloch High School, Frost studied at Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service and has put in about 20 years as a funeral director. In fact, he recently returned to that profession as manager at Hodges-Moore Funeral home, while remaining active in the café, where Coleman is full-time.
But they always shared a fascination with food. While working those other jobs, they were collecting recipes and creating their own.
"We'd experiment and try to duplicate things we had at restaurants," Frost said.
The results show in a catering menu that features jalapeno poppers and spinach sun-dried tomato torta, roasted red pepper cheese cake and brown-sugared bacon.
But the meltingly rich chewycake that is their best-known sweet is Frost's mother's recipe. They have shipped chewycake on special orders as far as Virginia, vacuum sealing whole pans-full. Other Southern favorites that are more traditional than experimental - sour cream pound cake, red velvet cake, divinity and pecan pie, for example, appear on the desserts portion of the menu.
Coleman and Frost bought the Old Post Office Café as an existing business eight years ago. At the time, it was a sandwich place where the only oven was a microwave. They began operating the restaurant Sept. 1, 2005, and catered their first wedding the next month.
Wedding receptions and anniversary parties have become mainstays of their business. But they also cater graduation parties, engagement parties, other events.
"We cater from an individual sit-down meal at someone's home all the way to corporate-level meetings," Coleman said.
They have been "everywhere in Statesboro" catering in private homes and public spaces, he added. Two frequent venues are the Belle House on Westside Road and the Garden of the Coastal Plain, as Georgia Southern University's botanical garden is now known.
The Old Post Office Café has also catered multiple events in Savannah, and three weddings on St. Simons Island further down the coast. It's all done from the little café in Brooklet. The kitchen now contains two residential-type stoves with matching ventilation hoods.
"You don't need a lot of the elaborate appliances. You really don't," Coleman said.
But they do own a large delivery van and a supply of serving tables, tablecloths, platters, chafing dishes, plates, cups, etc., ready to roll. By the way, the Old Post Office Café doesn't create wedding cakes - too specialized and difficult to move - and can provide punches and teas, but not alcoholic beverages. They will, however, recommend bartenders for hosts who provide their own.
Coleman and Frost have catered five or six events for Debra Chester, current chairperson of the Main Street Market and past board president the Garden of the Coastal Plain. The first was a social occasion at her home.
"They were willing to accommodate and to make the menu reflect what I wanted," Chester said. "Sometimes caterers and food people have their own agenda about the kinds of food that they want to serve, but they were so willing to tailor the food to our event."
She recommended them at the Garden of the Coastal Plain. In addition to weddings held there, they have catered the botanical garden's members party and its Lunch and Learn series. In fact, Coleman and Frost donated the catering for the four 2012-13 Lunch and Learn events.
"For the whole year they donated the lunches, which was a huge help to the garden, because we have to raise a fair bit of our operating revenue every year," said Garden of the Coastal Plain Director Carolyn Altman. "So their generosity was hugely appreciated."
The Old Post Office Café, which seats about 40 people, contrasts with its largest catering jobs, where Coleman, Frost and temporary helpers have served up to 400. They lease the century-old red brick building, in a storefront block on Parker Avenue. It served as Brooklet's P.O. before the current freestanding post office opened.
They have done some decorating but haven't overdone the post office motif. A rural mailbox, painted with the restaurant's name, holds menus on the counter. A painting of a row of mailboxes hangs near one of the café's larger tables.
The café menu is simpler than the catering menu. It features salads, sandwiches and wraps. Daily specials add another option not on the menu. These can be toasted sandwiches, homemade soup or hot entrees such as spaghetti or meatloaf.
The place is open for lunch only, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. It draws groups of regulars from both Brooklet and Statesboro, and hosts the Brooklet Kiwanis Club each Tuesday. But the street that leads on past Southeast Bulloch High to farmland beyond also yields travelers. Some from as far as New York and even Japan have dropped by.
Friends and patrons often offer the business owners advice, with one frequent bit being that they could grow their business by moving it.
"We say, ‘Thank you for your advice,' and we just come right back to Brooklet," Frost said. "Brooklet's been real good to us."