Food Interview

A Second Serving

Pamela Machon talks about the surprising comeback of Sophie’s Brewhouse

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Pamela Machon can tell you some stories. The former hairdresser and daycare operator opened Sophie’s Coffee & Café in 2008. She had always loved baking, and with the help of her daughters, Machon saw Sophie’s thrive for seven years. But when her parents passed away, she was overwrought. She closed Sophie’s down, thinking that would be the end of it. Yet when her successor failed to sustain the business, Machon faced a crossroads: try to sell a run-down building as-is, or resuscitate Sophie’s Brewhouse and make it shine. She chose the latter, commissioning her contractor-husband to rebuild the interior. Today, Sophie’s Brewhouse is a busy roadside café, with cases full of house-made baked goods. We caught up with Machon to talk about the coffee shop’s revival and her ambitious new plan.

What was it like reopening Sophie’s?
The second time around, it was a happy accident. I had missed [the café] so much. I could tell you all of our regular customers by their first name. When I closed, I received so many letters and messages on Facebook. When word got out that we were opening again, people were so relieved. It’s very humbling. I basically took the building back, and I said, “All right, Let’s give it another run.” And I gave myself seven years.

How much did you change?
Everything changed. The whole front changed. We have beautiful Italian cases, where we keep all of our pastries and pies. None of that was there before, even when I owned it. I had a case, but it wasn’t as nice as these. My husband did a great job. All of our lumber came from a local saw mill, which is right in Exeter. The tops of the tables, all of the bars, all the woodwork you see in there is local.

I understand that local vendors are important to you.
My grandfather used to say to me, “When you use a local person, you’re putting that person’s kid through college.” We try to use as many local vendors as we possibly can. Our coffee comes from Mills Coffee [in Providence]. They’ve been here since 1860. I think their coffee is amazing. [Owner] Susan Mills and I have become good friends. And we do our own nitro brew now. We do breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches, and everything is baked in-house, except for our bagels. If someone asks what is in something, I want to be able to tell them.

You’ve recently applied for a liquor license. Any big plans?
We’re adding a bar in the back. We’re going to do outdoor fire pits, horseshoes, corn hole. The land that Sophie’s is on is four acres. Once you go into the back, it’s very flat. We’re adding a bigger kitchen, more bathrooms. We want it to be like a mini-[Charlestown] Rathskeller. I’m not trying to compete with anybody; we have our own thing. But we’re in Exeter, so, you know – let’s play in the woods.

Sophie’s is in kind of a quiet location, but the parking lot always seems full. Who are your customers?
I wish I could say. To be honest, 75 percent are coming from Charlestown going to work. It’s mostly local people, and word of mouth. I see my own kids when they come in in the morning to get their coffee. No matter who they are, everybody is greeted when they come through the door, and you’re thanked when you leave. That’s how I was raised. We’ve got that down pat.

Sophie’s Brewhouse
699 South County Trail, Exeter • 295-4273