By: Jen Merrill; Photography by Jadrian Klinger
It all started at the market. The Broad Street Market, that is.
Sophia Nelms, 55, opened a humble stand in the famous Midtown Harrisburg marketplace almost a decade ago.
Now she has two restaurants under her name: Sophia’s on Market in Camp Hill and Sophia’s at Walden, her new venture in Mechanicsburg.
“I am at that stage where I wasn’t really bored but I was ready for that next move,” explains Nelms. “I think taking risks is all part of being an entrepreneur. You’re never guaranteed what’s going to happen, but you have to be willing to take the risk. I’m always motivated to get better and better.”
Nelms and her team – including her daughter, executive chef AnnMarie Nelms Gipe, 34 – have contemplated this type of growth for the past two years. Everything fell into place when the opportunity arose to be part of The Shops At Walden, a selection of retail locations nestled among the new Walden Charter Home community in Silver Spring Township.
It’s hard to believe that the madness of the Carlisle Pike is just a few turns away from this picturesque neighborhood. Amidst the exclusive row of shops, Sophia’s signature pale green color helps mark her building as her own.
The 60-seat café is complete with unique touches like exposed brick, stainless-steel countertops and cork flooring. Another 25 to 30 seats will be available on the brick-laid patio during warmer months.
Sophia’s at Walden offers some very distinct differences from its Camp Hill counterpart. Yes, it still has fresh, homemade breads, pastries, cookies and desserts. Yes, it still offers delectable breakfast and lunch options, including omelets, baked oatmeal, sandwiches – both the breakfast and later-in-the-day varieties – soups, wraps and salads. Yes, it still offers delivery (within a five-mile radius) between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
But the Walden location serves dinner with table service.
The entire lunchtime menu will be available during the evenings alongside a listing of mouthwatering appetizers and entrées. Sunday brunch is another advantage of the new Walden restaurant, complete with numerous variations of Eggs Benedict. And don’t forget about Sophia’s French toast, crafted with fresh Greek sweet bread.
“That’s one of my mother’s old recipes. It’s a great bread,” says Nelms of her infamous sweet bread.
“That’s one of my mother’s old recipes. It’s a great bread,” says Nelms of her infamous sweet bread. “We grew up on homemade breads. We never went to the grocery store for it. My mother was a baker, so we always had fresh bread every day.”
It’s that focus on fresh, homemade deliciousness that has helped make Sophia’s such a staple of central Pennsylvania. And none of that freshness is sacrificed since expansion. The bakery at the Market Street location will continue to churn out fresh-baked goods to sell at both restaurants. And all of it will be served with a friendly smile.
“I believe quality food and consistent food is what makes a restaurant. But without the service, it doesn’t matter what kind of food you have,” explains Nelms. “You could have the best food in the world, but if your service is not up to par, you can just forget it.”
Sophia’s at Walden is open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are not accepted. For more information on daily specials, the menu, catering opportunities or the bakery, visit sophiasonmarket.com.