After more than 30 years in the restaurant business, Ray Searles felt downtown Dover was the perfect place for a family friendly café that could draw from Legislative Hall, City Hall and Wesley College.


After more than 30 years in the restaurant business, Ray Searles felt downtown Dover was the perfect place for a family friendly café that could draw from Legislative Hall, City Hall and Wesley College.

But it couldn’t just be any old coffee shop for Searles, who is also the co-owner of Stoney Lonen off Del. Route 24 in Rehoboth Beach. That’s why freshly made gelato and espresso made from freshly ground coffee beans became the two cornerstones of Governor’s Café.

“If it’s not selling within five days, it’s out in the garbage,” Searles said of the gelato. “Our motto is fresh ingredients, freshly brewed.”

Governor’s Café quietly held its grand opening on Monday, a balmy, sunny day unusual for late November.

Searles spent 25 years working for Bob Ashby in the McGlynn’s group. When the economy got tough, Searles was let go – with no hard feelings. (He remains friends with Ashby.)

After taking a year off, Searles attended Penn State’s four-day ice cream seminar because he wanted to know how Ben & Jerry learned the trade. One of the secrets he learned from Dr. Robert F. Roberts was to flash freeze his ice cream at 45 degrees below zero in order to create small ice crystals and a smoother ice cream.

He also saw how the students at Penn State were successfully selling ice cream as well as sandwiches, Panini, salads, danishes and coffee – all now available at Governor’s Café.

The next stop for Searles was a 10-day stint at the American Barista Coffee School in Portland, Ore. There, he learned the importance of grinding coffee beans to order for espressos. He found a good roaster in Annapolis, Md., where his coffee supply comes from.

On top of it all, Searles was tired of the whole bar scene. He wanted a family friendly place.

He spoke openly of his idea for a café. Local developer Mike Zimmerman, whom he had come to know at McGlynn’s, suggested he take a look at the former Governor’s Mansion in downtown Dover. It did not take long for Searles, former general manager at McGlynn’s, to fall in love with that idea once he walked into the stately building owned by BBC Properties.

Searles kept much of the art intact. And, in homage to all the former governors of the First State, he hung up all their portraits in chronological order on the wall of the main dining room.

He didn’t have to do anything with the woodwork. But he had the place repainted to add some warm colors to the ambiance.

In the lounge, there are power outlets for anyone needing to recharge their laptops or tablets. Wi-Fi allows for wireless use both within the restaurant and out for the deck seating with a picturesque view of shrubs.

“What I see here on a day like this is families coming down for gelato in the evening,” Searles said. “It’s got a gate around it; the kids can have fun and run around in the grass. It’s very family friendly. The ambiance is really nice here.”

Things were low-key Monday, with breakfast and lunch drawing about 20 people, General Manager Jessie Krupka said.

“I think it was the perfect amount for an opening,” she said. “We weren’t slammed and people could gel – learning how the computers work.”

Searles lured Krupka away from her old job tending bar at McGlynn’s Pub. Including Searles and Jessie, the staff numbers 13 part-timers and full-timers.

“I know what lunch in Dover is like,” he said. “If you’ve got a spot, you’re packed. That’s how it is. The business is here.”