Connie Hermex, 58, started the adventure seven years ago. She started her own grand café in an authentic building from the 1800’s in Venlo. In the separate municipal monument of 1400 square meters, spread over two floors of different sizes, the company has to withstand the current catering crises. However, Connie keeps the business up and running. In fact, she welcomes De CaféKrant with a Limburg pie.
More photos at the bottom of this page
Grand Café Maagdenberg is located just a 10-minute walk from the station in Venlo, outside the city centre. From the outside, the former country house “Huize Maagdenberg” appears imposing – given its size and detached location. On the east side of the estate was Galgenberg, where criminals used to be hanged or quartered. Fortunately, the weather in Maagdenberg is good now. Be prepared even with Limburg pie. Welcome to Limburg! The conversation continues at the dining table. The interior of the building also seems impressive and exudes authenticity.
Lavish paintings on red walls, antique furniture, and eye-catching “talking pieces,” as Cooney calls them. “Guests eating or drinking something here should see something that interests them. That’s what I call talking points. Preferably not fake. Guests here talk about the art on display, the deer and horse antler pendant lamp in the foyer.” With humor, a wooden horse head on the wall in the hallway definitely adds something. It also helps keep guests coming back. The kids are always talking about it and asking their parents if they can go to the restaurant with the horse in the lobby again. There was some inside already, but I also bought a lot myself.”
A business woman should not rely only on the horse’s head. The Grand Café has a lot to offer. Connie has learned in all her years of catering how to attract guests. “I’ve always worked in the hospitality industry. My profession is actually a facility manager, which has a lot in common with my current entrepreneurial job. Thanks to this background, I look more broadly at certain things, which is definitely necessary if you’re running a business. Catering in such a big building. I also had a small theater with a coffee shop in Venlo. Before I started this big coffee shop, I used to work at the Take Five coffee shop. There I worked with singer, guitarist and composer Bert van den Berg.”
Now the roles are reversed. On weekends, Bert works for Conny at the BerghCafé as manager, a room that belongs on the grounds of Grand Café Maagdenberg, but forms a separate café. It opened its doors at the end of September 2022. Bert himself explains how it happened: “On January 1, 2022, after running it for 24 years, I closed the door to Take Five behind me. I had planned to do nothing for a year. The owner had a cooking studio in the current chapter where Groups of people came to cook, but after Corona only four of the 17 groups returned. Then a caterer hired it, then it went to festivals with a food truck. So it was empty, and then I came up with – according to Lonnie – a golden idea to turn it into a coffee shop. It wasn’t Connie Very excited about it at first.” The owner explains it in more detail: ‘It was hard enough to operate without BerghCafé to get schedules done due to the lack of staff. So I didn’t feel like going into the café. After that, I got the idea to let Bert run the place. But after many questions he changed his mind. The rest is history. We are now very satisfied with the way the coffee shop is going and the cooperation between us. I let Bert do his thing, and if he needs cocktails he can import them there and we’ll prepare them here. That’s because he always stands by himself. It’s a small coffee shop It has four seating tables and one table.” This is followed by a tour of the BerghCafé. It is more modern than Magdeberg. Modern art hangs on a brick wall, the space is floodlit but exudes the atmosphere of a typical Dutch coffee shop. Between the large café and the Berghcafé is an attractive courtyard garden with lovely mood lighting and many plants. “It’s very comfortable here in the summer,” says Burt.
Back in Magdenburg, Kony explains how the Grand Café came about. “I was looking for something small to start a restaurant. Something for myself. After a while I got a call that this was available for rent. I’m very happy with the way things are going. Here I started doing grandma’s pot: traditional dishes. Now there’s a cook here who comes from a 2-star restaurant.” This is paid for by selling more expensive dishes, which of course also include expensive ingredients.Now our daytime runner is “black chicken”.This is not burnt chicken, but an oriental chicken dish with black sauce of sambal, sweet soy sauce, tamarind , soy sauce and dark brown caster sugar. Italian dishes on the evening menu.”
The owner seems to have made the right choices, as she is satisfied with how things are going. “I am very satisfied with the number of visitors, many of whom are regular guests. In the summer the terrace is crowded because the sun is always shining. Of course the Corona years were very difficult, but these are busy times now. I recently hired a business leader who I’m very happy with. Since last week I have been working with Formitable, an online reservation system for catering establishments. The software also provides feedback from guests and provides insight into spending pattern and how many people come back. I am very satisfied with that.
Maagdenberg immediately went so well after opening seven years ago, because it already had a name in town through the previous owner. “I immediately had an income, and financed it largely with what I had in my hands. Without a bank, but with the help of my grandmother.” What the female entrepreneur now faces is the condition of the building she is renting. “The building is very old, from the 1800’s. It is not well insulated and detached, and fortunately I still have a good priced 2 1/2 year fixed power contract. Changes are very expensive due to the size and condition of the building. This makes alterations very difficult.” Things that are easier to implement are changes to the cocktail menu. “I want to keep the price of cocktails low. These cost 10 euros max, but the simpler ones are on sale for only 8.50 euros. They all have to look good, that’s what matters. The Sex on the Beach and Mojito are best sellers, men choose in style Basic Moscow mule in a copper cup. Tinto de verano does well too!” It’ll be a while before it’s the veranda, which means “summer” in Spanish. When the time is right, it can be announced in the indoor garden with Tinto de Verano.
Children and partner: 6 children and married to one man
Born in: Venlo
Education: MBO Horeca, MBO Dental Assistant, Cafe Business Course, HBO Facilities Management and HBO Management Assistant (all completed)
Hobbies: horseback riding and socializing
Facts and figures
Coffee price: 2.50 euros
Soft drink price: 2.50 euros
Beer price: 2.80 euros
Runner (food), price and gross margin: black chicken for € 16, 75% off
Average guest turnover: €32
Drink/food turnover: drink 45%/food 55%
Number of seats inside: 180
Number of seats outside: 150 incl. Berghcafe
Work area: 1400 square meters including the upper floor where the meeting rooms are rented
Balcony area: 400 square meters
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