“It’s my happy place,” Danielle Dampier says of her Danville-based drive-away cafe. And whether it’s donating to Inter-County Energy’s Christmas Blessings program, packing care baskets for students at Centre College or simply serving another satisfied customer, Danielle’s Drive-Away Cafe has become a beloved place for many others in the community as well.
Home-cooked goodness, community ties and a deeply personal touch have made the takeaway cafe a local favorite for nearly seven years. With no dine-in option available, customers take their food home to enjoy it—and Dampier says that’s all part of the magic.
“It’s just a very personal touch,” says Dampier, a former educator with deep community ties. “I think we do a good job trying to meet the needs of what our community, what our people want.”
Dampier knows her customers well enough that, when one regular recently paid for half of the bill of an elderly couple next in line, she texted the good Samaritan a thank you. She and her team are also aware of some regular customers’ food allergies, and they pay close attention food preparation and communicate well to keep those customers safe. Close community ties are not an extra, Dampier says—they are built into the business.
“This only works because our community supports us,” she says. “This this kind of business model wouldn’t work in every community. It just works here.”
Dampier’s business started as a side pursuit. She formerly served as a school principal, then left that job to direct a child development center. The transition left her with extra time on her hands. “I needed a hobby,” she says.
She started out making 4–5 meals for families once each week. From there, she built a commercial kitchen in her home. As the business grew, she says, “it flowed easily into doing a brick-and-mortar store.” Today, Dampier has two full-time employees plus a deep bench—18 part-time employees, some of whom may only work one or two days per week.
“The staff here—they’re like family,” she says. “I have a couple of people who’ve been here the whole time we’ve been open still working here. And that says something when they stick around that long, and they don’t work full time. They just do it because they have fun doing it.”
The cafe’s convenience is especially helpful for older customers, who can purchase smaller servings and enjoy homecooked food without preparing big meals. The popular $6.60 lunch specials are now on hiatus until the New Year, but customers can still peruse the fully stocked coolers, freezers and dessert table. Cooler offerings include a variety of fresh soups, casseroles, salads and spreads, and frozen items include lasagnas, sliders, quiches, crockpot meals and much more. The one rule of thumb? “Here at the cafe, we only serve what we like.”
Danielle’s Drive-Away Cafe, located at 1318 Lebanon Road, Danville, is open Monday–Friday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and closed Sunday.
Connect on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DaniellesDriveAwayCafe and join Dampier’s weekly email list by emailing email@example.com.