Miscellanea House: Coffee shop goes old school

News-DemocratFebruary 16, 2014 

Michelle McIntosh is renting a 1907 brick storefront with hardwood floors, 12-foot-high tin ceilings, massive woodwork and big double doors on West Main in Belleville.

It's the perfect place for Miscellanea House, a new cafe and shop where people can socialize, read, play games, occasionally hear music or just relax with a hot cup of Joe.

"I wanted this to be an old-school coffee house that wasn't (corporate)," said Michelle, 29, of Belleville, who also goes by Shelly. "I want people to feel comfortable sitting here and enjoying their coffee. I don't want anybody to feel rushed."

The cafe carries 40 coffees and 66 teas, in addition to breakfast items, appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, cheese platters, pizza and desserts.

It also sells hand-packaged spices and spice blends, handmade gifts such as jewelry and candles, and Bissinger's chocolate from the Central West End.

Michelle's co-manager is mother Sharon Egler, who arrives early to open at 7 a.m. while Michelle is getting her three children off to school.

"We always have a couple of breakfast items," said Sharon, 61, of Belleville. "Every morning, I make fresh beignets. That's the New Orleans fried doughnuts. And then we'll have hot cereal or bagels or some kind of strudel."

Sharon has become known for tomato soup, based on an Ohio spaghetti sauce that's sold at the shop.

Sharon also makes Italian beef, slow-cooking the meat for a minimum of 12 hours with garlic and other spices. Sandwiches come on Vitale's bread from The Hill.

The Gianino Sub is named after Michelle's cousin, the late Mel Gianino. He and his two brothers operated Gianino Brothers Deli in St. Louis, where Michelle once worked.

"My favorite sandwich is the Gianino because of the special sauce on it," she said. "It brings back good memories. That's the sauce (my cousins) used on their sandwiches."

The storefront at 1111 W. Main St. in Belleville has housed many businesses since it began as a dentist office. Its last tenant was Bear Book and Candle Shop. Miscellanea House opened Jan. 18.

Attorney Neal Connors, whose office is a block away, is happy to see the historic structure being put to good use. He started admiring it 20 years ago when it was a bike shop.

Neal stops by the cafe some mornings for a Baked Egg Souffle with choice of veggie, bacon and extra Cheddar or proscuitto, spinach and feta.

"Their coffee is very good," said Neal, 50, of Belleville. "They have Hartford coffee (from Hartford Coffee Co. in St. Louis), so that's a big plus. It's the only place I know of on this side of the river where you can get it."

Another regular is Paul Seibert, editor and publisher of STR8TUP Magazine, a metro-east guide to art, music and other culture.

He likes the idea that Belleville has a new locally owned coffee house with a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.

"I've sampled, if not purchased, a little bit of everything," said Paul, 65, of Lebanon. "I've tried the popcorn seasoning, and their spaghetti sauce is remarkable. It's a great product. I've had their soups and pastries, and their chocolates are to die for."

Michelle has been a waitress, secretary, courier and college student studying mass communications. She and Sharon also sold coffees, teas, spices and essential oils out of their home.

Michelle has two sons, Antonio McIntosh, 6, and Shawn McIntosh, 5. Shawn has autism, and Michelle is active with Autism Speaks, a research and advocacy organization.

Miscellanea House will host a Team Shawn fundraiser from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 22 with music by St. Louis singer-guitarist Matt Wynn, a former "American Idol" contestant who has autism. Admission is free. Ten percent of proceeds will go to Autism Speaks.

Michelle also has a daughter, Savannah Sonnenfeld, 11, a sixth-grader at St. Mary-St. Augustine Catholic Grade School. Sometimes she works at the cafe after school.

"I have fun because I get to run the cash register," she said. "I get to eat the Gianino sandwich and drink my (mocha) coffee and eat the chocolate."

The family still is working to fix up the storefront. Sharon's sister is hand-sewing an awning to put on a metal frame that's now draped with multicolored flags.

Inside, seating consists of bistro tables and a comfy couch and chairs. A shelving unit displays free publications, used magazines for sale and books that can be checked out library-style.

"In the summertime, we're going to have an outdoor garden," Michelle said. "And we'll have fresh herbs for sale."

At a glance

What: Miscellanea House

Where: 1111 W. Main St. in Belleville

Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Seating: About 10

Handicap-accessible: No

Carryouts: Yes

Information: 618-416-7808 or visit miscellaneahouse.com or the Facebook page

On the menu

Baked Egg Souffle -- Choice of veggie, bacon and extra Cheddar or prosciutto, spinach and feta, $2.50

Beignets -- New Orleans-style doughnut with powdered sugar, two for $1

Roasted Pear with Honey -- Appetizer with walnuts and gorgonzola cheese, $4.95

Cuban Panini -- Smoked turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and condiments on Vitale bread, $5.95 with chips

Gianino Sub -- Salami, turkey, mortadella, cheese and Italian sauce on Vitale's bread, $6.95 with chips

Cheese Platters -- Ten varieties, from Raspberry Bellavitano to Basil and Olive Oil Asiago, paired with nuts, fruits, meats and breads, $15.95 to $19.95

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