News from Downtown Nelson

Big things are happening in the town of Nelson

The Madison County town of Nelson, between Cazenovia and Morrisville on Route 20, might not be on your radar. But it should be. Things are happening there.

Nelson is home to the Nelson Odeon, an intimate concert venue in a historic Grange building; Nelson Farms, a country store (and food incubator) stocked with Made in New York products; and Route 20 Sofa Company, offering handcrafted sofas and recliners and original art by owner Shawn Gilmore.

The smell of coffee in the air? It’s coming from the recently opened Peaks Coffee Company. Is it beer o’clock? Soon you can enjoy a nanobrew from Humble Harvest Brewing.

Alicyn Hart likes the energy at the Nelson Four Corners and thinks it’s a good fit for her, too. On the ground floor of a big red building that formerly housed four apartments, work is in progress to carve out a commercial kitchen and dining space for Hart to reopen Circa New American Bistro and Market, which she operated in Cazenovia from 2006 to 2014. The relocated Circa is scheduled to open next spring.

Hart says she has followed leads and considered input from friends, family and loyal customers regarding potential new locations. But she kept coming back to conversations she had with Nelson resident Nancy Demyttenaere, who owns and is redeveloping two buildings at Route 20 and Erieville Road and has “a vision for revitalizing downtown Nelson.”

“Is it the perfect space for me to reopen my restaurant?” Hart asks. “It seems to make the most sense with my life. I’ll be accessible to my son … I want to be involved in what he wants to do. I have one foot in the Mom door and one foot in the business-owner door and I have to balance it.”

Hart says the future Circa will have about 1,100 square feet of space, slightly smaller than her Cazenovia location. Her former sign and café tables will come out of storage, she says, and there will be seating for about 40 diners, plus a few more at a counter. There will be no bar, although she will serve beer and wine.

The menu will spotlight locally sourced meats, produce, cheeses, grains and other ingredients, as it always has. That’s her hallmark. Hart says she probably will start out serving dinners only; Nelson probably doesn’t get enough “foot traffic” to support lunch.

“It’ll have the same name and the same feel,” Hart says. “Some things I won’t know until I get here …  It’s going to be me doing the same things, in a different spot. This will be a continuation of what I’ve always done.”

Nelson is about 25 miles from Syracuse and about five miles east of Cazenovia, but Hart doesn’t see distance as a deterrent.

“I have great customers who support me repeatedly,” she says. “I see it as a cool destination spot that’s a little off the beaten path.”

Hart has spent the summer working as a chef at The Loft at Vesper Hills Golf Club in Tully and will return to the kitchen at the Foggy Goggle restaurant at Toggenburg Mountain Winter Sports Center in Fabius when it opens for the season. To stay up to date with Circa, visit their Facebook page.

Peeking at Peaks

Up and running already in a building that neighbors Circa’s future home is the Peaks Coffee Company. The micro-roaster had its grand opening Oct. 3.

Peaks, at 3258 Route 20 East, is owned by Sam Bender and Kelsey Ball. The menu features coffee, espresso, lattes, cappuccinos and tea, as well as beans by the bag for coffee at home.

For now, hours of operation for retail are Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Coffee beans can be ordered online at

Margaret McCormick is a freelance writer and editor in Syracuse. She blogs about food at Follow her on Twitter, connect on Facebook or email her at [email protected].

Header photo: Alicyn Hart and her husband. Photo by Michael Davis of the Syracuse New Times
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