7 DAY SPOTLIGHT: Jake's and Cooper's Wine Bar

Jul 30, 2014 0 comments
7 DAY SPOTLIGHT: Jake's and Cooper's Wine Bar

Blog article by Manayunk Development Corporation Summer Intern, Katie Kavanaugh.

Bruce Cooper searched high and low looking for a location to open his fine dining restaurant, Jake’s. “I had never been on Main Street until I looked at this property. I was looking at properties from Center City all the way out to West Chester. And I heard about this section called Manayunk and I thought that I should look at this possible property and so I took a look at it and that was it,” says Bruce. In 1987, he bought the property at 4365 Main Street in Manayunk, which he has called home ever since.

After finding great success on Main Street, Bruce looked to expand upon Jake’s. He had always wanted to buy the property next door to him to create his next concept, Cooper’s. However, for years his neighbor was not interested in selling. He explains, “I was trying to buy that space for so long. It was a bad economy and no one was renting space and he had a long term tenant there. So I waited. It was a long waiting game, a decade of waiting. And the owner next door finally called me up and asked if I wanted to buy. It wasn’t just about him giving me the space; I was ready to change the Jake’s side when it finally popped in my lap.” In 2008, Bruce finally bought the property next door and was able to create what is today Jake’s and Cooper’s Wine Bar.

Jake’s and Cooper’s originally began as two separate restaurants with two separate concepts. However, moving forward, Bruce decided to merge the two with the same menu and a more casual dining experience. “We opened Jake’s 27 years ago,” he says, “and it was a fine dining restaurant with 68 seats. Then we expanded into Cooper’s in 2008 with a separate menu and a separate concept. We realized that a lot of people wanted something more casual. And the trend was going more causal for finer dining without table cloths and that sort of thing. So we connected the two spaces with menus and then we renovated the Jake’s side two years ago to connect the wine concept.” While the two spaces are connected and share a menu, some still consider them two separate restaurants. Bruce explains, “It’s two distinct dining rooms. Even though we renovated Jake’s to come closer to Cooper’s, it’s two totally distinct places. So I have different people who go to different sides and some of them never go to the other. They still consider it just Jake’s and some people only think of it as Cooper’s.” Bruce sometimes laughs when people ask him if Jake’s is affiliated with Cooper’s and responds, “There’s a hole in the wall!”

Regardless of which side you sit on, one thing is guaranteed at Jake’s and Cooper’s: consistency. Although the menu has changed through the years, Bruce promises that this type of dining experience is one you can count on every time you visit and that whatever you order will be exactly how you remember it. He says, “There’s certain dishes that have not changed and there are those that we change seasonally. The liver hasn’t been changed in 20 years. It’s a liver dish. People aren’t looking for it to be overly trendy they’re just looking for it to be liver.” However, certain dishes change with the seasons to keep things fresh at Jake’s and Cooper’s. “The crab cakes change their sauces and accompaniments seasonally but the crab cakes themselves have been on the menu since the day we opened, and so has the barbeque salmon. Those three entrees there have been on since the beginning of time for us.” Bruce is always looking for ways to improve the menu so that each guest is satisfied with their meal.

Bruce has had one goal in mind since opening Jake’s in 1987. He always wanted his restaurant to be a place where not only did people feel welcomed but they felt comfortable ordering whatever they want. When asked what an ideal customer experience would be like, Bruce says, “I always wanted this to be a place where you can eat whatever you want. If you come in and just want a salad, that’s fine. So it has no pretense into what you’re ordering, which I think is important. I believe the single most important thing is being able to come in and feel relaxed, eat what you want, and then walk away that day and feel like this is a place where you can come back and get what you’ve enjoyed.” He says consistency is what has kept him in business for so many years.

After 27 years on Main Street, Bruce says, “I have a lot of favorite things about working here. It’s not really like work. I enjoy it so it’s not like a regular job and that’s the most important part.” He agrees that if you love your job then you never really work a day in your life. And to Bruce, working in Manayunk for so many years has made this his home away from home. “I’ve invested over half of my life here so to me it’s like home, and it’s like no other place. I’ve been at this location an awful long time. The location I picked so long ago and looking back I wouldn’t have changed my decision. I still like this space and I still like the street. To me it’s just home.”

For more on Jake’s and Cooper’s, visit www.jakesrestaurant.com.

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