Coffee Shop A Winner

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Residents Invited To 'Sit & Sip' At New Restaurant

By Steve Jusseaume,

Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 16, 2002

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Jo Vitale, right, the owner of Jo's Sit and Sip, shares a laugh with
regulars Catherine and Gordon Nicoll of Seabrook while inside the
diner on Route 1 in Hampton Thursday afternoon.

[Emily Reily/]

HAMPTON -- There's a new restaurateur in town, and her name is Jo.

Located on Lafayette Road downtown between Friendly Nails and FunnyBones Toys, Jo's Sit & Sip opened Feb. 15. Jo Vitale, a Hampton resident for the past 12 years, negotiated the lease after Honey Bee Donuts vacated the space earlier this year.

"I used to come in here every morning for coffee," she said last week. "When Honey Bee decided to pull out, I'd drive by and see the lease sign out front, and one day just decided to call the phone number."

Open for seven weeks now, Jo said the old Honey Bee customers are beginning to come back, and business is getting better and better every day.

"A lot of the locals are coming back in, and we're getting new business," she said.

The menu is more varied than before. Jo serves breakfast in the morning, lunches during the day and light suppers and ice cream in the evenings.

"Everything is made fresh," she said, listing her menu, which includes eggs, bacon, homefries, plus doughnuts and bagels in the morning. Sit & Sip features a wide lunch menu that includes lobster rolls and lobster bisque on Fridays, as well as steamed hot dogs, meatballs, clam chowder, and sandwiches. The shop opens at 6 a.m., and stays open most of the day. Originally the store closed at 3 p.m. but as the weather improves, Jo said the shop will remain open until 7 p.m. Come summer, she'll remain open until 10 p.m. except for Wednesday, when the shop shuts down at 6 p.m.

"I get here at 5 in the morning and I'm here all day. I haven't had a day off since we opened," Jo said.

While the hours are long, her four sons help at times. Son, Steve, coaches the Winnacunnet Little Warriors Seacoast Junior Football League team, and Jo has made donations to the team, as well as to other community groups.

"It's ail part of good community relations, it's just being part of the community you live in," she said.

The shop has eight stools at the counter and three tables.

The interior of the shop has been renovated with a nautical theme on the walls. Jo installed a television so patrons can watch the news while lunching, and she'd like to put cafe tables on the sidewalk, though "that's all up to the town," Jo said.

The shop also holds monthly raffles (you buy something. you get a raffle ticket. At the end of the month winners receive a $25 gift certificate to a local business), and offers senior citizens a 10 percent discount.

She also said her husband, Walter Kelly, who works in the kitchen at The Old Salt just up the road, has been "very supportive of my big plan."

Jo noted that the state just last week inspected the operation and she is now set to receive her permanent license to operate.

"The state is real strict. They come in and test the water temperature, the food storage, ail the food must be dated, but we just passed with flying colors," she said. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Jo lived in Florida for some time before coming to Hampton. "We lived in Pembroke Pines, but then Hurricane Andrew came through in '92, we had to evacuate our home, and decided to move back to New England."

The whole idea of opening a coffee shop came to her this winter when a discount store in Portsmouth where she was working, cut back her hours. "I enjoy socializing with the customers. I love chit-chatting with friends who come in. I love being in the center of town, hearing all the news ... It's been great fun so far."

[It closed its doors in June or July 2002 after an unsuccesssful run since February 2002. A Pizza shop will be opening in December 2002. Watch for update.]

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