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Owner of newly opened Gather 256 brings a sense of home to former i-ron-ic space

Owner of newly opened Gather 256 brings a sense of home to former i-ron-ic space

  • A French-trained chef is the driving force behind York’s newest coffee shop in the building previously occupied by I-ron-ic Coffee Shop in the WeCo district.
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York’s newest boutique cafe, Gather 256, officially opened Feb. 21. It offers much more than your average caffeine fix.

Owner and French Culinary Institute-trained chef Sarah Cahill has created a space that’s as inviting as it is eclectic, with a bent for culinary exploration, a focus on community, and a dedication to supporting local artists.

Craving the taste of home

Sarah discovered her love of all things culinary while serving with the Peace Corps in the Philippines. Feeling homesick, she craved a dish she used to make: sweet and sour tofu. She stopped by the local grocery to see if she could find the ingredients to recreate it.

After scouring the shelves, she found every ingredient except one. Sarah broke down in tears in the store.

“The only thing I wanted was one ingredient from home,” she says. “That’s when I realized how important food was. It’s about culture. It’s about connection.”

Sarah went on to study at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, then worked in restaurants from New York to North Carolina before settling in York and becoming a personal chef, chef instructor, caterer, and food stylist. Food-focused travel and exploration remain a big part of her life. 

“I loved food as a way of caring, as a way of showing caring for other people, and as a cultural touch point that would allow for the exchange of views,” she says.

A chance conversation

For the past nine years, Sarah lived in downtown York while creating personalized meals for her clients. Each week, she drove past the former i-ron-ic Coffee Shop at 256 W. Philadelphia St. on her way to the gym while dreaming of opening her own place one day.

Then the building went up for sale.

After weeks of driving past the for-sale sign, she mentioned to CrossFit coach and friend Madeline Marisol that she was thinking about starting a coffee shop where I-ron-ic had been. Madeline’s response was immediate.

“You absolutely should!”

The conversation that followed inspired Sarah to put action behind her musings.

“The way she responded to me, it made me think more about the potential of that space,” Sarah says.

Days later, she was touring the building, and a week after that, with the help of CGA Law Firm, she had it under contract to purchase.  

“I don’t know if this transaction really happened in record time, but it certainly felt like it,” Sarah says of the speed with which the team at CGA was able to make everything come together.

In a little over a month, they helped to form two LLCs, went through underwriting, completed inspections and started the processes for licensure and inspection with the City of York. 

“I felt so taken care of, understood, and confident in their abilities to get the work done,” Sarah says.

York’s gathering space

The name Gather 256 reflects the address of the shop and Sarah’s vision for a gathering space for the community.

Already, a writing club meets in the upstairs sitting lounge while members’ kids play. Sarah has put out a call for artwork to be exhibited in the space, which she hopes will create a business incubator for local artists.

The space has ample room for instruction, workshops, book readings, and even kids’ cooking classes in the future. In warmer months, Sarah envisions the outdoor space being used for succulent workshops and hands-on events.

“We love it,” Sarah says of the downtown York community. “We get to play an integral role in building a growing economy in downtown and hopefully help others do that, too.”

The support Sarah has received from the community in the WeCo district (West of the Codorus Creek) has been exceptional. From neighbors helping to renovate the shop to people stopping by with plants for outside in the front, the community has helped her feel at home.

“I have been many times in spaces in other countries where it has felt homey and inviting,” says Sarah. “Those are the experiences surrounding travel that you remember the most because they create a feeling of home, whatever home feels like. If you create that feeling of home, that transcends borders. That’s what inspired my love of food in the first place.”