Wild Honey Cafe turning into the gathering place of Russells Mills Village
One year ago, diners in Russells Mills Village and points south had no choice for a quick bite to eat. But now, the Wild Honey Cafe has become a fixture of the neighborhood.
The cafe, located inside the recently renovated Davoll's General Store, was the idea of husband and wife duo Jillian and Jacob Martin. Jillian is close friends with the general store’s new owners, who, after a 2017 renovation of the store, hoped to find someone to run a restaurant there.
“She approached us and asked if we were interested,” Jillian said. “We both had very different jobs.”
Her husband Jacob managed a nearby D'Angelo restaurant, so it wasn’t quite a big career shift for him. Jillian did work in delis and Lee’s Market when she was younger, but had already settled into her career of social service at Mass Mentor in New Bedford.
“I enjoyed it, but I’ve always enjoyed food, and I think you just go back to what you enjoy if you can,” Jillian said. “And I was able to.”
After careful planning and renovations — limited by the property’s historic status — Jillian and Jacob opened the Wild Honey Cafe in November 2017, in the dead of winter.
Unlike bustling Padanaram or the busy Route 6 corridor, Russells Mills Village and its surrounding area are rural and, for the most part, devoid of eateries. Despite initially being nervous about the location, the couple soon realized the appeal.
“For the months where we were in here painting and getting ready, there was nowhere to go for lunch,” Jacob said. “You had to drive all the way to the North Dartmouth area to get things. That’s when I started realizing ‘oh yeah, that’s the appeal.’”
The cafe serves up a sizable breakfast and lunch menu, and a variety of coffees and hot drinks. They initially wanted to keep the menu simple.
The positive reception, even in the cold winter months, was apparent even before the cafe opened. Community members spoke in support of their license at a Select Board meeting.
“We didn’t want to open in the winter because we thought it’d be dead, but this community had such overwhelming support for us in our first couple months,” Jillian said.
By the time summer rolled around, they added summer residents and beach-goers on their way to Horseneck Beach or Demarest Lloyd to their clientele.
With a full year of operation behind them, Jillian and Jacob are now weighing options for things going forward, including the potential to expand to dinner service and live music.