For Poughkeepsie native Nikki Kaelber on this Small Business Saturday, running her small business means intentionally welcoming the community indoors for a home-cooked meal.
Owning a successful Poughkeepsie dining staple is not new to Nikki; in fact, she’s been immersed in the business since she was a child.
Her mother and step-father owned and operated Southside Café in the same location for 27 years. After her mother passed suddenly at age 49, her step father continued to run Southside until his unexpected passing two years later. The building sat vacant for two-and-a-half years until Nikki purchased it and decided to embark on a dream of her own. She opened Laura’s Family Restaurant on February 20, 2019 – what would have been her mother, Laura’s 53rd birthday.
The entire place was gutted and renovated so that the space no longer looks like Southside, but still carries the family legacy and spirit.
The restaurant now offers American comfort food, at comfortable prices, made with quality ingredients.
“My mother showed me how to welcome customers into a restaurant, and treat them as if they were guests in her own home. I’m proud to carry on this legacy made in the restaurant that bears her name,” Nikki reported.
Laura’s Family Restaurant is open seven days a week. Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. is a newer addition, with extended hours during the football season.
Some menu favorites are the fresh salmon, tuna melts, or in-house roasted turkeys from Columbia County.
Nikki does it all: cooking, bartending and serving. However, she’s extremely proud of her great staff of a dozen or so that add to the restaurant’s success.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of starting a business? “Not being able to split myself into three people!” Nikki laughed. She’s quick to add, “It’s been a ride, but I love it.”
The most fulfilling aspect has been being able to gain independence and to have fun making a dream come true. She also takes great pride in offering customers real food at reasonable prices, so that families don’t have to break the bank to eat out for a high-quality meal.
The menu carries over many dishes from Southside, but they’re “tweaked with more local ingredients,” Nikki reported. “I try so hard to offer affordable prices, while still freshening everything up.”
Carrying products from local Hudson Valley businesses is important to Nikki, so her menu includes ice cream from Mary Jane’s Dairy Bar in Newburgh, coffee from Illuminated Coffee Company, in Poughkeepsie, and macarons from Amanda’s Macaron Shoppe in Highland.
The full bar includes four 50-inch TVs, with drinks from Sloop, Newburgh Brewing Co., Millhouse and Rip Van Winkle.
Nikki views her community support as a cyclical act. “The more we do with our community, the better the community is going to be,” she knows.
“I love seeing my community grow and thrive,” she concluded.