I (George Gikas) and my wife and partner (Charity) originally worked in the corporate world. I was a mechanical engineer for 30 years, and she was a nurse and home health aid for many years. We would go to work, work hard, earn our pay, and come home. And that was about as exciting as things were.
We were stalled and honestly a bit tired of working for Corporate America, where quite frankly, you work for someone else. We both wanted something more in our lives. We wanted to work for ourselves, and have fun while at work. We are both social people and love to meet people and make new friends. So, in July of 2018, Charity was in between homecare patients, and I decided to make a bold decision and quit my job.
I came home that day and looked Charity right in the eyes and said, ok, now what?
We started thinking about how life was back many years ago, when families could come together in a place and enjoy it there. A time of old-fashioned, good values. Then we found the era where a lot of this was true, the 1950's. We embarked down a path to make an old-fashioned place where children could come to and feel as if it was their home. Where customers could come in and be treated like family.
We went through many iterations of what we could open up, and then, one day, while I was walking to dance (I was taking dance instruction) I noticed that the local ice cream shop in Danvers closed and was now for sale. Then the idea struck me, why not open up an old-fashioned ice cream parlor!
I called Charity, and we looked at the shop the same day. It needed a lot of renovations and work and some capital investment for equipment, but we decided that we could make it work. We passed the papers on the equipment sale and signed the lease and then proceeded to work on renovating. We worked day and night and opened the shop for business in record time. We opened within two months — it was a lot of work!
We were happy. We worked very long hours and worked 7 days a week, but it was worth it. Our success was in our hands. After several months we had many regular customers who would come in for our great ice cream, and to see us. And, we were doing well, for our first year in business.
One day, in July, after nearly being open for a year, our landlord came in for a visit. He had architectural plans in hand and began talking to us about renovating the building. But in order for this to happen, we would need to close down for the winter. We were skeptical because we did not close for the winter and we were still doing well. And, I had been hearing that he may have to tear the building down, which would put us out of business for at least a year if not longer.
We made the decision to find a new space. A space that would be a better location, have the potential for more customers, and be in a growing city. There was one clear option — Beverly, MA. We packed up our shop and began working on the new location. We closed our ice cream shop in September of 2019. In October of 2019, the building was torn down. The place that for nearly a year, the children of the town called their second home was gone.
A bigger, bolder venture:
Many people would have given up at this point, but not us! We were not deterred just because we now had no building. We would rebuild! We did not look at this as a setback, we looked at it as a clean slate. Then we began thinking, what was our core value? It was to have a place where everyone would feel comfortable and relaxed, a place where they could feel at home. It would be a place where everyone knew your name, and treated you like family.
This was our core value at the ice cream shop, and this is the same value we are bringing with us to our new place. Our ice cream shop was the first step to an even bigger, bolder venture; our dream would soon be realized. The ice cream shop was a trial run, and we were now ready for the big leagues. That is when we decided to go bigger, and add breakfast, lunch, and dinner to our offerings. We would offer fresh, healthy, farm-to-table based food for everyone, as well as some great comfort food and vegan options.
We were growing up, and soon we would not just be an ice cream shop, but something more. We would offer on-the-go food as well, still made fresh, still delicious; for the commuters in the area. And at dinner, people could come in and relax and enjoy our flatbreads or our shareable foods. We wanted a place where friends and families can come together, relax, have fun, and call home. Thus the Cotton Mill Cafe was born, a welcoming, casual, family restaurant in Beverly serving comfort food to all kinds of people.