Courtesy of Tharun Sankar

The Carriage House, a popular Collegetown venue and brunch spot, is being sold by its owners.

February 16, 2020

For Sale: Carriage House Cafe, Home to ‘Best Brunch in Ithaca’

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Carriage House Cafe — the Stewart Avenue brunch staple known for dishing French toast and espresso drinks out of a historic building — will soon usher in new ownership. 

The current owners, the Chandler and Woodall family, announced Wednesday on Facebook that they put the cafe and bar up for sale after 20 years of brunch and musical performances. Whether the building will stay a restaurant after the sale remains unknown, but Aaron Chandler, a co-owner, said he hopes it will continue to serve the community. 

About a year ago, the cafe owners notified their staff about the eventual sale, after they felt they needed to hand off the building and its operations because of their busy family lives, Aaron said.

“Mark Chandler had a vision to bring the international and local community together in a space that would become a second home to many,” the post read. “Over the last two decades it has been our pleasure to host you for dinner, brunch, cocktails, concerts, weddings, graduation parties and so much more.”

Even though the eatery will close, he said the owners are considering other ways to maintain the brand, such as selling Carriage House products or a cookbook.

While the families search for a proprietor who will exchange the $895,000 asking price for the historic building and its equipment, Carriage House will continue serving brunch Tuesday through Sundays at the cafe and mixing drinks from Thursday through Saturdays at its bar and lounge known as The Loft.  

Originally constructed in the 1850s to shelter horses, carriages and hay, the classic fieldstone building later stood as an abandoned storage facility after it outlived its former use and lay ravaged from a 1912 fire. 

But Mark Chandler reopened the space in 2004 after transforming it into a lively cafe. With the approval of the Ithaca Historical Society, he restored the horse and buggy building using mostly original material, preserving its wood doors and diamond-shaped windows, according to the cafe’s website. 

Beyond scones and poached eggs, the upstairs loft and event space has featured evening performances ranging from contemporary jazz music to classical violin sonatas. In April 2019, Grammy-nominated violinist Prof. Ariana Kim, music, serenaded a Carriage House audience with a blend of Bach, Brahms, Gershwin and American folk music.   

Community members expressed their appreciation on Facebook for the restaurant’s home fries and burgers, the cafe cooking up what The Sun and The Ithaca Times have both voted the “best brunch in Ithaca.” Other users thanked the owners for creating a cherished community gathering spot, home to what one Ithaca native called “musical memories.” 

“It has been a very emotional arrival, starting this place,” Aaron said. “It has become something we never could’ve imagined it would. We had to make the choice to do what’s best. It has been a hard choice, but a very good one. We feel comfortable with it.” 

Meghna Maharishi ’22 contributed reporting to this article.