Baking and Breaking Bread
at Me & Ollie’s
By Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
Me & Ollie’s manages to be the perfect third place with an ideal downtown location, good coffee, homemade bread, sandwiches, soups and baked goods, comfortable seats, chill vibe and a place in Exeter’s early-American history.
George Washington didn’t sleep here but he ate on this site when it was the old Folsom Tavern. In 1789, Washington consumed a “light collation” (breakfast) at the 1775-built tavern as a guest of Col. Samuel Folsom and family.
In fact, if you’re in town to celebrate Exeter’s Independence Festival on July 14, with its historic encampments, re-enactments and a once-a-year viewing of draft copies of the Constitution, Me & Ollie’s is the ideal, historic spot to cool off with an iced tea or smoothie.
Today, regulars and visitors can enjoy breakfast, lunch and a nosh at the cozy café. But it all starts with the bread.
“After all, it’s the bread that makes the sandwich,” according to the owners.
The family-owned business, which also has locations in Greenland and Portsmouth, started life as a bakery in an old button factory in Portsmouth 20 years ago. Roger Elkus named his family business after his sons Max, Eli and Ollie.
Their coffee – another third-place must – is locally procured from Port City Coffee.
And just as importantly there is a strong sense of community here. On the brick wall facing Me & Ollie’s patio, is a mural titled “Community” with hand-painted panels created by locals. Inside, locals and tourists alike share lattes and laughs, work on their laptops and hold business and personal meetings.
On a recent weekend, Patty Miske sat underneath one of the many giant, black-and-white photos of the Elkus children baking, which decorate the café. She is a marketing consultant who comes in two or three times a week.
“I work from home and have to get out of the house and connect. This is my spot. I can see everything, and there’s a power strip here,” she said.
Exeter resident Lisa Jollimois was here to study and set up her computer under the whimsical mural legend showing the history of Me & Ollie’s.
“You get a great view of downtown from here,” she said. “It’s a nice, warm atmosphere to study.”
She’s not alone. On any given day people of all ages from toddlers to teens to seniors hang out at the café while pop classics play on the sound system.
Perhaps “bagnato 1,” a visitor who left a comment on the café’s Facebook page, said it best: “From the comfortable bustle … to the tasty coffees and teas, this is a wonderful place in a cool New England town. Sat in an over-sized couch, fired up my computer and linked to the free in-house wi-fi, and was very productive while enjoying the food, drink and surroundings. A great community gathering-place.”