Laetare goes back to Brix basics

Laetare goes back to Brix basics

Quite a few eyebrows were raised when the Thomas Jefferson Foundation recently announced that starting this year it will rent out the grounds of Monticello for private events. Not the house itself, but places around the grounds, including the Jefferson Library, the new Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center and the Smith Woodland Pavilion. That drunken corporate holiday parties and possible wedding receptions might soil the sanctity of our UNESCO World Heritage Site has some traditionalists around town wondering about the impact of the regime change at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and manages the plantation. Leslie Greene Bowman took over as President of the foundation in late 2008 from Daniel P. Jordan, who’d been the chief executive there since 1985. In a report last month, The Daily Progress said that Jordan declined to comment specifically on the new rental policy, but was quoted as saying, “A new administration is in place now. And I wish them well.”

Karen Laetare is diplomatic about her decision to discontinue operations at the Café at Monticello, leaving it at “it was a wonderful learning experience.” 

Now, Karen Laetare, owner of Brix Terrace Café on Pantops, tells us equally as graciously that as of May she will not continue to operate the Café at Monticello, because, simply, “It’s a new administration.”
Laetare says the decision to part ways with Monticello was mutual and that her stint “was a wonderful learning experience.” She goes on to explain that the nature of her assignment simply changed in terms of the type of food she was asked to prepare and that she wants to continue in the Brix direction. Though the Café at Monticello was never a branded Brix café, Laetare strove to provide the same level of freshly made sandwiches, paninis, salads, soups and baked goods for which Brix is known. 
When her contract with Monticello is up in May, Laetare’s full attention will return to high-quality, gourmet fare Brix-style, both at the restaurant on Pantops, which serves breakfast, lunch and a full-service dinner, and through her catering business.  She’s already making some changes at Brix to reinvigorate her Mediterranean-inspired menu as well as to offer less expensive meals for the recession-weary. Many of her lunch items are now available through the dinner hours, and she’s planning to add full-size versions of her Mediterranean individual pizzas. She’s also added savory waffles, a Brix spin on fish tacos and free WiFi. Technically, you can camp out all day from coffee at dawn to dessert at dusk and fulfill all your work and nutrition needs. 
We named Laetare as one of our 2007 C-VILLE 20 emerging players for her entrepreneurial success in launching Brix from a funky little corner store on Route 53 in 1999 to a booming catering business and freestanding flagship shop in the Pantops Shopping Center as of 2007. Laetare has since closed the Route 53 location. Right now, she says she’s focusing on continuing to build her Brix brand and make the Pantops location successful. Still, she says her “radar is always on” for additional opportunities or locations.