Laurel Avenue Cafe
Carla Bruce, Liz Hughes and Marie McKenna
Laurel Avenue Cafe Corporation
The Laurel Ave Café Corporation has two locations under the name Lost Dog Café that offer a unique blend of menu items, in a unique atmosphere, for a reasonable price. The restaurants appeal to a range of customers from students to young professionals to older people. The restaurants are located in Binghamton and Ithaca in older, historical buildings with rustic décor. The restaurants are both successful, primarily due to the insight, ability, and tenacity of the partners.
Carla, Liz and Marie have all been active participants in the management of the business since 1994. Carla manages the Binghamton restaurant, Liz manages the Ithaca restaurant, and Marie manages the catering part of the business.
The partners have used SBDC services many times over the years. Marie, Carla, and Liz first consulted the SBDC in 1996 with plans to expand the business from its original location. They returned to the SBDC in 1998 with the idea of opening a Southwestern theme restaurant called Buffy’s Burritos. The restaurant was launched in 1999 and was popular among the younger set. That business was eventually sold to another local restaurateur in 2000 and then moved to his location. In Spring 1999, the partners asked SBDC to help them open a second Lost Dog café in Ithaca, and by September 2001, patrons were lined up around the block to get in. In 2002, the partners returned again to the SBDC, this time to enhance catering facilities in space adjacent to the Binghamton Lost Dog Café.
Over the past nine years, the idea has grown into a $2 million corporation employing 63 full and part time employees. Marie, Liz, and Carla share their successes with their communities, sponsoring and raising funds for numerous charity events. The lost dog, a Chihuahua named Celeste that went missing while the partners were opening the first store, was eventually found.