March 21, 2013
Cafe brings owner fresh start
Revamped Beach House reflects co-owners’ own renewal
By MARK FERDINAND
The Beach House Cafe is an appropriate title for Randy Fox’s new venture, running the breakfast, brunch and lunch cafe on 37 Main St.
While few consider owning a small business as a vacation, Fox is a man climbing out of his own personal low point.
Homeless as recently as two years ago, and recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, he has found a center back in his hometown running the small restaurant with co-owner Bill Dallaire and cook Brian Santos.
Fox, 53, was married for 12 years until his wife, Kathy, died in 1998 from breast cancer — a death that shook him to his core.
“I went off the deep end basically. I got involved in drugs and it wasn’t good,” he said.
He bounced from place to place, living in Florida, Kansas and New Hampshire before finally settling in Massachusetts.
“I moved around a lot. I worked for a buddy of mine and got laid off, and I was basically on the street.”
Fox would stay at Our Father’s House, a homeless shelter in Fitchburg, Mass. .
Kevin MacLean, executive director of the shelter, said Fox had come to him about three years ago, but eventually saved up enough money to move out.
He first found a job in a plastics factory, where he would work 12-hour days. While he started out cleaning the factory floor, he said after a few months his boss praised his work ethic and promoted him to working on an extrusion machine, used to melt and form plastics into various custom profiles.
With assistance from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, Fox found a subsidized development in which to stay, where he also helped as a manager.
When Fox was laid off from his factory job, MacLean stepped in and offered him a position as a direct care worker at Our Father’s House. As a recovering drug and alcohol addict, Fox offered insight and empathized with others enduring his own battles.
“He was five years clean, and able to relate to what the triggers are and what some of these guys are going through,” said MacLean. “He was at the pit of his life, but he got things together.”
He saw Fox as a role model to others, one who had lived at the shelter then found work and his own place to live.
“(MacLean) calls me his success story,” said Fox.
In early 2012, he struck back home for Cortland, setting up Foxy’s Franks, a hot dog cart he would run outside locations like the Red Jug Pub and Tropical Wheels.
Bill Dallaire, who owns the restaurant and the Beach House Tanning Salon in the same building, approached Fox about helping him run the cafe last year. Together, they oversaw a remodeling of the cafe into a more open and hospitable venue.
New countertops, a new dining and kitchen area with a pass-through window, two powerful ovens and a revamped menu herald the rebranding of The Beach House.
“Nothing on the menu is deep fried, and all the food is fresh,” said Fox.
The fries, for example, instead of being fried are lightly sprayed with canola oil and baked, but cook Brian Santos says “you’d never know.”
Santos has cooked for Dallaire for about two and a half years, and has prior experience at restaurants like Jack Danielson’s.
The biggest change to their modus operandi, said Fox, has been an added focus on breakfast.
“We deliver breakfast all day,” he said. “That’s going to be our niche.”
Along with egg sandwiches and French toast, Santos and Fox serve breakfast calzones. Easily the most popular, they say, the Ultra Grand calzone combines scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, bacon, sausage, cheese and hash browns with a choice of sauce or syrup.
Other menu items include “best on the planet,” says Fox, 100 percent fruit smoothies, Hofmann German franks and coneys, grilled cheese sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas and 6-inch, made-from-scratch, personal pan pizzas. They also serve Coffee Mania coffee.
Orders over $10 get free delivery, and while Fox does all the footwork himself, he said he hopes to one day “give jobs back to the community” by adding delivery and service positions as they grow.
Fox is embracing social media, listing daily specials on his Facebook page and sending customers text messages offering coupons and promotions.
“The text club is free. Just text ‘lunch’ to 88202 and get what our specials are for the day,” he said, adding that he would like to eventually allow customers to make orders through email.
For Fox, the cafe’s new look and rehabilitation speaks to his own. Much like the restaurant, he has gutted and rebuilt his own life.
“I came off the street and didn’t have anything, but I wanted to stay clean. As an addict, it’s a conscious decision; it’s a matter of willpower,” he said. “I try to stay below the radar and above the fray.”
While he had been estranged from his two children, Caitlin, 22, and Ryan, 26, who went to Florida to live with his sister, Fox said they have become a family again. He gave Caitlin away during her wedding last summer.
“They just want to see me happy. It took a while to build that back up again,” said Fox.
MacLean, who still runs the shelter in Massachusetts and keeps in touch with his friend, said Fox still talks about his late wife.
“You can tell he’s still in love with her,” said MacLean.
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