Hockessin cafe owner keeps dream going after partner injured in a serious car accident

Patricia Talorico
Delaware News Journal

Shannon Kokoszka and Linda Mele made a dream of running their own small cafe come true despite misgivings about opening a new business while coronavirus pandemic restrictions were still in place.

About five months ago, the women, friends for more than 20 years, rented the former Nal restaurant site in Hockessin at 1304 Old Lancaster Pike. They turned it into a five-table operation called Brunch and More.

Brunch and More owners Shannon Kokoszka and Linda Mele pose in the Hockessin store in 2020. Shannon, who is recovering from injuries suffered in a recent car accident, will be out of the shop for about three months.

"Everyone said we were crazy. Who opens a business during COVID?" Mele said.

Kokoszka, serving as head chef, gathered recipes she has been using for years. She cooked everything from crunchy eggroll pastries stuffed with sweet and savory fillings to chicken marsala with fresh pasta, sauteed garlic and green beans.

Find it here:Spend the summer with us to stay on top of latest Delaware dining and drink news

Linda Mele, co-owner of Brunch & More in Hockessin prepares a breakfast sandwich Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

"Shannon has always loved food. When I had parties, I had her do all the food and I took all the credit," Mele says, laughing. 

Mele, who spent 30 years in property management in Wilmington, handled the business end.

The cafe featuring breakfast menu items like egg sandwiches and oats with chia seeds and blueberries, as well as grab-and-go daily specials such as chicken Parmesan and shepherd's pie, was just started to pick up steam when tragedy struck in mid-May.

After leaving the cafe, Kokoszka was involved in a serious car accident on May 12 on Route 41 (Newport Gap Pike) at Graves Road.

The Hockessin resident was severely injured with multiple fractures to her right foot and ankle, left leg, sternum and ribs. She also has a concussion and severe bruising on her left arm.

Kokoszka, who now is recovering in a rehab center, will be away from Brunch and More, for at least three or four months.

Mele has taken over the entire operation temporarily, with the help of friends and family, while her business partner recuperates. The business has taken a different direction than they could ever have imagined.

Last summer for iconic sign:Dolle's, unofficial candy of Biden White House, hopes for sweet season in new location

New Hockessin restaurant Brunch & More

"We're trying to be optimistic. This is so hard on Shannon. This is like her newborn baby," Mele said. "But we got some great family and we're going to keep it going."

The idea for the cafe was born out of boredom during the height of COVID-19 pandemic, Mele said, although the women had talked about the plan for a few years.

They first began making food for a private club associated with St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church as a kind of test run. After two months of success and well-fed, happy diners, Mele said, they felt they were ready to take the plunge to run their own cafe.

"We worked really well together," Mele said. "We thought 'Let's do it.'"

While the coronavirus pandemic closed many businesses across the nation, many new restaurants popped up in Delaware.

In April 2020, Dorcea, an upscale American grill, took over the location of the former Domaine Hudson in Wilmington.

Two long-planned Vietnamese restaurants, Pho Bami in the Fairfax Shopping Center and Pho Sun at Silverside Road and Concord Pike in Talleyville, opened last summer.

New Hockessin restaurant Brunch & More

And Brandywine Diner, a gleaming stainless steel, modern diner off Concord Pike, has been serving customers since November in Brandywine Hundred's Brandywine Commons Center.

Brunch and More opened on Dec. 31 but had to shut down shortly after due to exposure to coronavirus. The partners reopened at the end of January and began gaining a group of regulars and were booking catering events.

Mele said she and Kokoszka had talked about possibly staying open later into the evening, but plans have since been scaled back due to Kokoszka's accident. 

Kokoszka also had actively kept customers up to date about food specials on their social media pages but recently hasn't felt well enough to post. Her daughter has taken over the task.

The absence of her friend and partner has been an adjustment, Mele said, but to get through the next few months, she is shortening hours that the store is open in the summer. Doors will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to about 3 p.m., and the cafe will close on Sundays and Mondays.

Linda Mele, co-owner of Brunch & More in Hockessin.

In the meantime, Mele is keeping the dream going until her longtime friend returns.

For the summertime, she is planning to stock the coolers with homemade cold broccoli and potato salads and dishes made with fresh vegetables and fruits. Mele also is thinking about possible barbecue and grill items.

"Shannon was the main cook. She designed the menu," Mele said, "but I come from a big family with five sisters. Cooking, I don't get stressed out about it. A family meal for us is easily 40 people."

Contact Patricia Talorico at (302) 324-2861 or ptalorico@delawareonline.com and on Twitter @pattytalorico