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December 4, 2017

Gâteau opens in renovated Culpeper Street building

• What: Bakery, café and tea room. 

• Serving: Desserts and light meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and selling cakes and other baked goods.

• Where: 12 Culpeper St., Warrenton.

• Owner: Lora Gookin. 

• Grand opening: Planned Jan. 27.

• Building: Italianate two-story structure; about 1,775 square feet; built in 1855. Housed a bank in 1904; formerly leased for law offices and storage.

• Investment: $365,000 to purchase building and about $300,000 for renovations and equipment.

• Architect: Hinckley, Shepherd, Norden Architects.

• Employees: 4 full-time and 2 part-time.

• Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; expanded hours and seven days in future.

• Seats: 27 inside; four outside.

• Website:

• Facebook: Click here.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
She has transformed a neglected, historic building in downtown Warrenton into a destination bakery, café and tearoom.

After seven months of renovations, Lora Gookin opened Gâteau — French for “cake” — at 12 Culpeper St. on Nov. 22.

For the last six years, Ms. Gookin has run the “distinctive cake” business from a commercial kitchen in her home near Vint Hill, but she started to run out of space.

She fell in love with the Culpeper Street building’s “old world, European feel” and purchased it for $365,000 in January. 

With exposed brick interior walls, high ceilings, two chandeliers and lots of natural light, the renovated first floor contains the bakery counter, dining room and restrooms.

“There’s a calmness, a pleasantness when you walk in,” customer Karen Tewsksbury said. “It’s very welcoming.”

“The dining room and bakery are separate, which make it more intimate,” said Terry Goad.

The second floor houses the kitchen and cake decorating area. A dumbwaiter transports food and heavy cakes from the kitchen to the first floor.  

The dining area includes furniture from estate sales and antique stores and custom tabletops custom made of reclaimed wood.

“I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like,” Ms. Gookin said. “There’s really not one style. I assembled all the pieces of furniture that I like, and I think it worked out well.

“I wanted crystal chandeliers because there was so much wood and brick.”

The $300,000 renovation included a new heating/cooling system, updated electrical system, two handicap-accessible bathrooms, commercial ovens, a stove and walk-in refrigerator.

Fauquier’s first bank, Gaines and Brothers, occupied the Italianate structure in the early 1900s.  

The building housed law offices for many years, beginning in 1972. Most recently the second floor served as the office and storage space for Belle Vodka owner Old Dominion Spirits LLC.

The building “was compartmentalized with very little rooms,” Ms. Gookin said.

When construction began in March, she had hoped to open by summer’s end, but extensive renovation of the 1855 brick building took more time than expected.

Hinckley, Shepherd, Norden Architects designed the two-story, 1,775-square-foot space. 

“In previous renovations and because of its age, (there was) very soft brick and mortar in some places turning into dust,” architect David Norden said.

To stabilize a load bearing brick wall that supports bank vault doors, workmen
“installed (five) steel beams vertically and horizontally to restructure the second floor and the roof above,” Mr. Norden explained.

Originally one story, the building got expanded to a second floor early in its history, Mr. Norden said.

Ms. Gookin received Warrenton Architectural Review Board approval for a faux balcony railing, sign, outdoor lighting and brick and mortar repairs.

Exterior designs including “gooseneck lights and metal letters add light and character to the building,” Ms. Gookin said.

“We still have to complete the decorations, bring in all the display cakes, teapots, and cups,” she added. “We still need cushions for the seats.”

During the first few weeks, the restaurant will open four days a week with a limited menu. Gâteau features five different lunch sandwiches, with the choice of soup or salad for $12. Other items include quiche and a breakfast sandwich, all made from scratch.

“This is probably the best quiche I’ve ever had,” said Culpeper resident Ann McTamney, who visited Thursday. “It has just the right amount of savory.”

Baked goods range from $2.75 for a cookie to $3.50 for a brownie.

The first-floor bakery on a rotating basis will offer about 50 homemade dessert items, including cake slices, croissants, scones, cupcakes, donuts, Danishes, cheesecake, gelato, brownies, cookies and French macarons. 

“We’re trying to introduce a few products at a time to gauge customer favorites,” Ms. Gookin said.

A civil engineer by trade, she started baking as a hobby. It turned into a business after she took a nine-month course in baking and pastry arts at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Ms. Gookin uses high-quality ingredients, with no shortenings, dyes or preservatives.

She hopes her café will become a destination for locals and out-of-towners, “anyone who loves tea, anyone who loves to come by and socialize. A feel-good place to hang out with friends.”

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BJ · December 5, 2017 at 7:50 am
Wonderful news! My wife will be so happy for a local tea destination. The place looks terrific.

Blaine Johnson
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