Ollie Cat Cafe provides culinary offerings for the whole family and your imagination

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Ollie Cat Cafe

By Randy Arrington

LURAY, July 5 — It takes more than 14 hours to travel from Palm Beach County, Fla. to Luray, Va. — just short of 1,000 miles. But the journey for Tim and Shannon Lindner has been much longer.

The couple was born, raised and spent their whole life in Palm Beach County. After Tim graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville, he pursued a culinary degree and dreamed of one day opening a restaurant. In November, their son, Cody, 19, graduated from basic training for the Air Force, allowing them the freedom to begin searching for the perfect spot for that “mom and pop” cafe — and, a new home.

The six-month search took them throughout the Southeast, starting off as close as north Florida and expanding north up the East Coast to Virginia, and then heading west to Alabama and Mississippi. When the journey brought them to Luray, several things resonated with the couple — the mountains, the people, and lower blood pressure.

“The stress of the community [where we’re from in Florida]…congestion, six lanes of traffic each way and everybody doing 100 mph…we got tired of that and wanted a simpler life,” Tim said. “After we came here, the doctor told me my blood pressure was totally normal, and it had been a long time since a doctor told me that.”

“I saw a 360-degree change,” the chef noted of his health. “We met a few beautiful people, and we just knew this is where we wanted to be.”

On Friday, Shannon gripped a photo of her son in his Air Force uniform as she spoke to a small group of local officials. The couple was not allowed to attend his graduation from basic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they had not seen him since November. Shannon became a little emotional when she noted that he had been delayed, but Cody was on his way to Luray.

“We hope we can do the town proud,” Shannon said at the grand opening and ribbon cutting for Ollie Cat Cafe.

“It’s been a dream,” Tim added.

The family-style restaurant launched its official opening on June 7 in the building that housed McKim and Huffman Pharmacy for about a century near the corner of Court Street and West Main.

“Congratulations on packing up and moving here, but also for investing right here in Luray,” Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce President Gina Hilliard said prior to Friday’s ribbon cutting. “You’ve put lot of hard work into it, now we need to send people here and let them try it out.”

The menu includes appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, entrees, pastas, kid’s items and dessert. In addition, Ollie Cat’s offers daily specials such as — Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Pork Chop Wednesdays, Thanksgiving Thursdays, Fish and Chips Friday and a 10-oz. prime rib on Saturdays.

“The easiest and quickest thing we can do to help economic development is support local business,” Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said after introducing four other members of the Luray Council in attendance.

Charles and Janice Vannelli, Shannon’s parents, traveled from Fort White, Fla. (just north of Gainesville) to be at Friday’s ribbon cutting in Luray (a little under 12 hours). Their little Florida town of about 500 has a Subway and a gas station — and that’s it. So, they know the value of a good restaurant and being part of a community.

“They wanted to find a building the size they wanted and a town they could love, and I think they found it,” Janice said on Friday. “We’re excited and very proud.”

The Lindners first came to Luray in December to look around. They began negotiating for the building in January, and then moved to town (in their RV) in February.

“We sold our home, we sold everything and got here the night of the ice storm,” Shannon said. “And then the heater on our RV quit, but that didn’t stop us.”

The name “Ollie Cat” comes from the only one of Shannon’s seven cats that is considered officially a “lap cap.” Oliver was a stray that came to Shannon one day “sad and loud.” She fed him, he stayed, and now seven years later she simply says, “He’s special.”

And just like Oliver became part of their family, the Lindners hope they can become part of the Luray community. Shannon plans to partner with the Page County Animal Shelter to place photos of adoptable animals on a wall at the restaurant. In addition, any animal that is adopted from the wall will have any related fees paid for by Ollie Cat Cafe.

“I’ve heard you talk about your dream and your vision, and I applaud your efforts,” Luray Downtown Initiative program director Jackie Fox Elliott said on Friday. “We will do our best to support you and my door is always open.”

As part of a new push among downtown businesses in Luray, Ollie Cat Cafe will be open seven days a week. Their hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Currently, the restaurant employs a staff of 10, but they are still “short-staffed” and are looking to make additional hires with competitive wages and a “work family” atmosphere.

“We welcome you, and wish you great success,” District 2 supervisor Allen Louderback said on Friday as a representative of county government. “We are really gearing up on economic development, so let us know if we can do anything.”

Both Tim and Shannon stress their desire to be a part of the Luray community, but the chef notes that they also hope to be a little different too.

“Here what we do is we offer different sides in different ways, so use your imagination when you order,” Tim said to future customers. “Our menu is really up to the customer’s imagination. We can make what you want.”

Ollie Cat Cafe is located at 219 West Main Street in Luray and is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. To make reservations for larger groups, call them at (540) 669-5981 — email at: [email protected] — or check out their Facebook page.

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