CASTLE ROCK — It’s 8 a.m. Monday at one of Castle Rock’s newest businesses, and owner Geraldene Keighan-Taylor is sauteing onions and chopping tomatoes. In just her second week of selling sandwiches and salads, she’s preparing for the big lunch rush.
“I was a little overwhelmed (last week). I thought I’d have a little trickle, not a full 50 portions (of orders),” Keighan-Taylor said.
Keighan-Taylor, a native of Staffordshire, England, who moved to the United States in 2011, opened Castle Sandwich Shop on March 7. The restaurant serves simple, nutritious food intended to bring the community together, she said.
“I love the whole idea of people coming together to eat food, get refreshed and then move on, whether that’s in their daily life or in their travels,” said Keighan-Taylor, 54.
The sandwich shop holds a special significance to Keighan-Taylor. When she was in her 20s, she and her father had planned to open a similar shop in England, but never did. Castle Sandwich Shop opened on the anniversary of her father’s death about eight years ago, in celebration of his memory, Keighan-Taylor said.
“I just know he would have been tickled pink with this whole process,” Keighan-Taylor said.
She also was inspired in part by special education students she taught for several years. She helped special needs students age 18 and up transition out of school and into jobs, and she most recently worked with Southwest Washington Student Transition Educational Program Services (STEPS), located in downtown Longview.
Keighan-Taylor said she often had conversations with her students about their career aspirations.
“There’s something very special about special needs (adults) when they are transitioning,” Keighan-Taylor said. “They don’t always see their limitations. As far as they are concerned, they can do anything they want if they put their mind to it.”
When one student turned a question back on Keighan-Taylor, asking the teacher what her career aspirations were, Keighan-Taylor recalled her interest in opening a restaurant.
“I’ve always loved bringing people together with food. My family has always enjoyed that. We’ve always entertained people,” she said. “People always dropped in for my mom’s apple pie and Sunday lunch. My dad would often call her and say, ‘I have some business guys in town. Can they come by for dinner?’ And she’d always rustle something up.”
Around that same time, a storefront opened in Downtown Castle Rock, and Keighan-Taylor decided to “grab onto the opportunity with both hands.”
She put in her notice of resignation with STEPS, signed up for culinary classes and invested the small inheritance her mother left her into the shop, she said.
The shop’s theme is a play on Keighan-Taylor’s heritage and the business’s location.
“We love our history .... and there’s something rather noble about castles. And the Castle Rock was originally supposed to look like the turrets of a castle,” Keighan-Taylor said. “So we thought, why not call it the Castle Sandwich Shop and have a play on the whole castle theme.”
Menu items like the duchess’ salad and the prince sandwich follow the theme, though the cuisine isn’t particularly British in nature. For example, the prince sandwich is a classic roast beef, horseradish, tomato and cucumber combo.
Family and fellowship remain a primary focus of the shop for Keighan-Taylor, and eventually she wants to offer a delivery service for children living away from their parents.
“I couldn’t be there for my mom and dad (in England), and I would have loved to have had the telephone number for someone I could have called and asked to send out a really healthy meal to my mom and dad,” Keighan-Taylor said. “I’m hoping that with time, that’s what people will do with me.”
Keighan-Taylor also hopes her shop will become a gathering place for community groups.
But for now Keighan-Taylor and her staff of about five employees are taking things “step by step,” she said. The sandwich shop currently offers three salads, four sandwiches and a daily soup, but Keighan-Taylor expects to add more menu items as the business settles into the community.
Already, Castle Sandwich Shop has received a warm welcome and strong support from the local community, Keighan-Taylor said.
“I’d never thought as a little girl I’d be in a little town in America at the bottom of a volcano making soups and sandwiches for people. I couldn’t never have envisioned that,” Keighan-Taylor said. “And yet in many ways, everything that has been going on in my life has helped me get to that place.”