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Owner: 'Business Great' at Jitters Café After One Year in Melrose

Tim LaPrade, owner of Melrose-based Jitters Café, 12 Main St., recently discussed how business has been after being open for more than a year in the city.

Tim LaPrade, owner of Melrose-based Jitters Café, 12 Main St., recently discussed how business has been after being open for more than a year in the city.

Melrose Patch (MP): Where do you live?

Tim LaPrade (TL): I grew up around the Worcester area but I moved to Melrose about two years ago.

MP: What is your business background?

TL: I went to the University of Vermont for business school and until Jitters, I had been doing accounting/finance. Since high school, and throughout my accounting career, I was a server at many restaurants. I never really worked inside the kitchen, but I've always had a great passion for quality food. My passion for food helped design the menu, while my business degree gave me the tools to run a business and take care of all of the finances for it.

MP: How did you arrive at the decision you wanted to own a cafe?

TL: With food being my true passion, I've always wanted to work in the restaurant industry. Whether it's waiting tables or watching all of those Gordon Ramsay reality television shows, I've always managed to make food a big part of my life. I'm too much of a people person to sit behind a desk all day and stare at a computer filled with numbers. I wanted to interact with people on a daily basis and I wanted the food I was serving to be my food. So about three years ago I began looking for available space to open up a restaurant.

MP: What communities were you considering opening Jitters Café?

TL: My search was everywhere between Worcester and Boston and I happened upon Melrose by chance. My girlfriend is from Melrose and I spent a lot of time here visiting her. When I was made aware of the available retail spot, it seemed like it'd be a good fit. I knew Melrose would be a great spot to open my own restaurant because it's a great community and everyone I meet here seems to have lived here their whole lives.

MP: Why did you ultimately decide to open Jitters Café?

TL: Upon checking out the space available, the landlord mentioned they were looking for a coffee shop to move in. That made it seem like a perfect fit. Being such a large space, I knew it was a tad large for just coffee, so I incorporated my food knowledge and created a panini menu to help fill all the seats at lunch and dinner.

MP: How many dishes are on the menu at Jitters Café?

TL: For breakfast you can either eat something sweet like a muffin, or indulge in a build-your-own breakfast sandwich. We also have sandwiches such as the Sergeant and the Nutella Banana Croissant that are a big hit. For lunch and dinner we offer four salads, all cut fresh and made to order, as well as 13 paninis. Everything is made to order so if people have an allergy or just don't like an ingredient it's very easy to meet their needs. We also offer gluten-free bread for all of our sandwiches and majority of our soups are also gluten-free.

MP: What is the square footage of Jitters Café?

TL: 1,600 sq. ft.

MP: How many seats are at the cafe?

TL: There are close to 40 seats in the winter and up towards 50 in the warmer months when we put the patio seats outside. People are always surprised at how spacious it is when they first walk in.

MP: What is the price range for food and drinks served at Jitters Café?

TL: Coffees range from $1.50 to $5 for the big fancy flavored iced lattes. The muffins we bake here every day are huge for the $2 we charge. Our paninis range from $7-8 and are all big enough to completely satisfy your hunger. A lot of times people ask us for a bag to wrap up the other half that they couldn't finish.

MP: Are you a member of the Melrose Chamber of Commerce? If so, what has it been like working with fellow business owners?

TL: We are a member of the Melrose Chamber and we love it. We try and get to as many events we can to meet and socialize with the other members. All of the members are very supportive of each other's business and it's great to help out a friend's business when possible.

MP: What has it been like working in Melrose?

TL: It's been great. It's a good feeling to see a lot of familiar faces coming into Jitters everyday. When I'm running errands around town I'll always run into some of our regulars and stop and chat. Running a business in Melrose is also very easy, as in, all of the people down at City Hall have been very helpful and they're always there to answer any questions that may pop up for a new business owner.

MP: From conceptualization to reality, how long did it take to get the cafe ready to open?

TL: I first walked into the space in February 2012. That's when I could really start mapping out a design for a kitchen and a seating floor plan. Lease negotiations took a couple months and I got the keys in June 2012. Construction took a couple more months and the place was ready to open in mid-October.

MP: When did you open your doors to customers?

TL: Oct. 16, 2012

MP: How has business been so far? 

TL: Business has been great. I recognize about 80 percent of the customers that walk in the door and every day we're still getting new customers coming in saying they've heard great reviews and had to try us out themselves.

MP: What are some of the most popular selling items on the menu?

TL: For breakfast, the best selling item is the Sergeant (named after our German Shepherd). It's ham, egg, pepper jack cheese and homemade honey mustard baked on a nice buttery, flaky croissant. Our most popular panini is our signature sandwich, the Jitterbug: smoked turkey, red onion, applewood smoked bacon, Granny Smith apples, pepper jack cheese and a homemade sun-dried tomato aioli on sourdough bread. A lot of regulars request a side of our Sriracha aioli to dip the sandwich in to give it that extra kick.

MP: Do you do daily/weekly specials? 

TL: Every now and again we'll run a special Panini of the Week which we will post on our Facebook page as well as inside the café. We also run soups in the colder months and those will change daily. A lot of people give us a call in the morning and ask us what our soup is so they can plan their lunch accordingly.

MP: What are your goals for 2014?

TL: The obvious main goal of any business is to attract more customers, so that's our main focus. We'll be doing that through new advertising techniques as well as changing up our menu a tad throughout the year. I'm currently researching more gluten-free items as well as more foods that fall under the Paleo diet that a lot of our current customers are following.

MP: What are your long-term goals for the business? 

TL: The long-term goals are to keep seeing new customers walk through the door, give them a great experience and consistently help us build a large clientele. The ultimate goal is for Jitters to get busy enough to hire a manager and to give us spare time to research opening a second spot.

MP: Do you hope to open more locations in Melrose and/or other communities in the future?

TL: Although working in Melrose is an awesome experience, I feel if we were to expand we would want to hit another town. We'd want to find another location within a similar tight-knit community such as Melrose.

MP: Do you plan to introduce other services in the future? Please explain.

TL: With the limited kitchen space, it's hard for us to really expand our services or menu. We are looking at other sandwiches we can offer with similar ingredients to what we currently offer so even our regulars can always come and try something new.

For more information, call 781-605-2578 or visit the café's website.

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