Rye Reflections

July 2005 Features

The Hungry Horse Cafe

The ancient Greeks would have envied such an oracle

Juliette Zivic

It was Greek to them

Finding snippets of wisdom was a bit of a chore for the ancient Greeks.  They had to sit around for weeks, or even months on end, debating all sides of an issue, usually not arriving at a good conclusion or any conclusion at all.  When clear guidance was needed they had to make the long trek to the Oracle at Delphi whose prognostications were often suspect.  The bright minds of the day – Heraclitis, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and their kind could have benefited from the presence of an establishment like Rye’s Hungry Horse Café.

Here at the Hungry Horse we find wisdom with our morning brew – we hear the latest in town news, gossip included; we study the real estate guide to learn how the value of property is moving.  Anyone looking to have work done on their property can obtain multiple recommendations from other patrons.  Discussion on any variety of topics is generated by simply asking a question to anyone within hearing.  Subjects range from football to foreign policy; from tomatoes (the best time to plant) to the terror of taxes; from baseball to budgets.  This is the place to meet friends and chat about travel, cooking, history, and of course the daily challenge – the trivia question of the day.  Indeed, on any topic you are apt to hear more theorems than Pythagoras could dredge up and more angles than Euclid knew existed.

It took a vision

Much as we enjoy the Hungry Horse and even take it for granted, it was not always there.  In its place there was a convenience store until 1993.  Pat Phelan, co-owner and operator of the Hungry Horse, knew from the beginning that he had to emphasize food service because the convenience store was not a successful business and the Cumberland Farms store in town had also closed.  So with his experience from a previous coffee shop, the Honey Bee, he envisioned a café that would serve the needs of the community.  The clientele is a mixture of construction/laborers and locals.  Rye’s retired senior citizens account for 10% to 20% of the business.  The first customers begin arriving at 6 A.M. They arrive with the expectation of freshly brewed coffee and pastries and muffins still warm from the oven.  That requires Pat to be hard at work in the wee hours

Pat Phelan, 70 hours a week and still smiling
when most of us are still deep in slumber.  In fact Pat estimates that he works seventy hours per week.  Yet he endeavors to make the Hungry Horse a fun place to work.  He describes his employee Justin Coffill as a “delight to have” and admires the young man’s work ethic and quick wit.  Of Heather Philbrick, he says he has “never had a more polite employee” and the newest member of the team, Jo Ann Dorin, is picking up very quickly on the business.  As for Pat himself – he is a passionate skier and he also enjoys hiking the White Mountains.  He is a member of the NH 4000-footer club, having climbed all the mountains in New Hampshire over 4000 feet high.  Someday Pat wants to retire to the mountains.  Dare I be selfish and hope that that day will not be too soon?  He has provided us with a great meeting place, a message center, a reliable source of great coffee, fresh pastries and our own oracle.  If only the early Greeks had had a Hungry Horse Café, perhaps Socrates could have had a cup of Green Mountain coffee instead of that wretched hemlock.

July 7, 2005



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