Too many cooks in the kitchen usually is not a good sign, but for Home Kitchen Cafe it has been a boon.

The cafe recently completed renovations, primarily to the kitchen area to accommodate the staff. What used to be done in 16 feet of space now can be done in the roomy 30 feet. And the kitchen area was pushed out 11 feet to allow for proper service.

"When we originally opened our doors in 2009, we didn't expect the response we got," said owner/operator Susan Schiro of the cafe's success. "It was surprising and nice."

Since then she and co-owner/operator/chef and husband James Hatch have found it necessary to expand their cooking environment to accommodate its demand.

"We didn't have the appropriate space in the kitchen to facilitate the food," said Hatch, therefore the renovation process was necessary. "We needed a lot of space for a lot of people," Hatch said.

Home Kitchen closed its doors Sept. 24, 2012, for the recently completed renovations, and reopened Feb. 27.

The renovations included adding Americans with Disabilities Act compliant bathrooms, enclosing the previously seasonal patio downstairs, and adding a second floor waiting area and outside deck. Cost of the renovations was $275,000 for the engineering and architecture, and $35,000 of new equipment was added.

At first glance, the cafe would appear to hold more seating than previously available. However, Schiro and Hatch said it actually balanced out. "We lost 12 seats with the renovations to the entryway and downstairs bathroom," said Schiro, "but gained 10 seats with the enclosed patio area."

The seasonal upstairs deck will seat 20 for outside dining and private parties. The enclosed upstairs area is for a more lounge-like waiting area, a few tables, and a prep area.

"A lot of people thought we had added many more seats," Schiro said, unfortunately there is still usually a waiting period.

The original bar area looks vastly different, but is the same. "We had to raise the floor seven inches," said Schiro, "therefore bringing the bar closer to the floor." The original building was a garage with a flat roof, a drastically different look than it appears now.

"Now we have what it takes to facilitate the customer service we want to deliver," said Hatch.

The couple have lived and worked in the Rockland area for 20 years, and had a particular vision for the current location when they opened in 2009. "There was nothing like it being offered in the area," said Hatch.

"Rockland is an artsy, working waterfront area," he said.

Much thought was put into the colors, menu, design and music that make the cafe's appeal like "home." "Here at Home Kitchen our goal is to serve good, fresh, hearty, satisfying food, all made on the premises," their website states. "Flavor is our friend, and your enjoyment is our reward."

"We've gotten to know a lot of our customers personally," said Schiro. "We've been really excited and humbled at how people say they have missed us."

Both Schiro and Hatch also praised their staff. "We have a very dedicated staff that waited through the process and stood by us."

The cafe currently has six full time line cooks, three prep cooks, seven waitstaff and three dishwashers.

"Seems like we're hiring all the time," said Schiro as the staff must grow as the business continues to grow.

"We do tip sharing," said Merilyn Gray, front end manager who has been there three years. "Personally, I think it works very well." Everyone takes care of each other, making sure the customers receive the level of service that is expected.

"It is extremely busy and very hard work, but I love every minute of it," said Gray, "To me, the place is like 'home' and the employees are like my family."

The cafe has a vast menu and co-owners feel they do not need to have a lot of specials as they encourage their creative cooks and knowledgeable staff to have input and share their talents, Hatch and Schiro said.

"It's fun to create something different on occasion," said Hatch.

One of the biggest changes in the menu is adding sustainably farmed meats. "All our meats, except corned beef and pastrami, come from small farms where the animals were humanely raised," said Schiro.

Gluten-free pancakes and veggie burgers have also been added to the menu. And now the famous sticky buns are even made in-house.

The cafe, which serves breakfast and lunch all day, is open Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are closed Tuesdays.

The restaurant will be closed to celebrate Easter, Sunday, March 31 and Monday, April 1, in addition to its normal Tuesday closure.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at