From Collins House B&B to Manna Cafe
The Collins House Bed and Breakfast was 5 years in the making, as we squirreled away every spare penny and scoured the area for the perfect spot to run a B&B. In 1985, after a 1-year "learning curve" in working with the City of Madison to lease the building, our new inn opened on Gorham Street.
It was perfect in every respect. Close (but not too close) to the downtown heart of our city, listed on the National Register of historic places, and overlooking beautiful Lake Mendota, The Collins House was the expression of our dreams. We got to cook and bake fresh, creative foods every day for regulars and newcomers alike. We got to share "our" Madison with out-of-towners. We got to be in business together as a couple. And we developed, over the years, a great reputation in Madison for hospitality, bakery, and homemade foods that helped pave the path to Manna.
From 1985 until 2005, The Collins House was a place where out-of-towners were welcomed to the best of Madison. In addition to our inn, we cultivated a from-scratch catering business that served the corporate world as well as many private celebrations. And so so many people asked us "where can we eat your foods?" or "why don't you open a restaurant?" After a while (15 years or so), we began to think about that, too. And the seeds of a new business -- one in which we could share our great foods with more people, one in which we could cultivate a different kind of community in our own neighborhood -- were sown.
Somewhere in the middle of these years, two more labors of love (literally), our children, happened along. Our oldest, Josh, was "born to cook," and grew up with a drive to become a chef someday (which he now is, in New York City). Isaac, our youngest, also grew to love food, although it was more of the Hot Pockets and tater tots variety! He is now a physical therapist. Both boys were excited with our new venture, and both worked at Manna, not only helping us launch the business, but gaining for themselves an invaluable work ethic and commitment that will be part of their lives forever.
In September of 2005, after a rather significant renovation of, well, cinderblock walls and a big blank nothingness, we birthed Manna. The idea was to bring the hospitality and wonderful food we served at The Collins House to the neighborhood in which we lived, and continue our life's commitment to "make people happy through food." For us, Manna is all about our neighbors, and the community, and the human interactions that make life a joy.
If you look closely, and know what you are looking for, you will find bits and pieces of The Collins House woven into the fabric of our cafe. These threads are for us a reminder of the wonderful business we were lucky enough to run for 20 years, and of the continuity in life that drives us and keeps our identities whole.