By Guillaume Gentil and Mark Prowse
The bustling new cafe Ten Forward sits perched in a loft above the Autumn Leaves used bookstore in the Ithaca Commons. The space has been occupied by several cafe owners over the years — now the torch passes to a sci-fi fan whose passion to provide for the community is only rivaled by her love for everything space-related.
The new owner Tammie Olsefski, an Ithaca native, is also the owner of a food truck that roams Ithaca called the Star Truck. With Ten Forward, she extends the theme of space in now two of her food-business ventures.
“I’m very excited to be one of the first fully plant-based [foods] destinations in Ithaca.” she said, referring to the assortment of fully vegan menu items.
While there have been some difficulties in coordinating all the elements of the cafe together, Olsefski said the support from her fellow community members has been astounding.
“A few days ago I remember I was struggling to put the tables together but people helped and now we’re practically overcrowded on our first day.”
She expressed how excited she was at the prospect of being a key destination for several groups in Ithaca.
“We have all kinds of clubs that come here to meet, like there was a knitting club not long ago, and being that space which provides them with good food is just so cool,” Olsefski said.
From pirates to high fantasy, the decor and feel of the cafe has changed with each owner to reflect their interests, and now space — specifically the sci-fi universe of Star Trek — is the dominant theme. Flags and posters referring to the show adorn the walls as well as bookshelves shared from the business below.
Neil, a volunteer at the worker’s center adjacent to the cafe, told us about his connection to the cafe.
“This space has always been close to us […] cause it’s right next door,” Neil said. “This is where we get our coffee pretty much every morning so we’ve grown pretty attached to this space and whomever owns it.”
Among the decorations around the cafe are several flags — one is the Federation flag, from the Star Trek show. One flag has an image of Earth on it and in the center of the dining area is a large rainbow flag.
The cafe is both an LGBTQ+ safe space as well as a vegan foods provider. In the future, Olsefski said she plans to host a variety of events including those with an LGBTQ+ focus. She hopes to create a comfortable space where all her customers will feel welcome.
Community members sit elbow to elbow in the relatively small space of the loft to sip teas and coffees and eat the salads, wraps, paninis and other snack/lunch items offered on the Ten Forward menu. Lily Gershon,a previous housemate of Olsefski’s, says she has been coming to the cafe for the past nine years.
“We all encouraged her to do it. It seemed like a passion and we wanted to support her,” Lily looked over her shoulder at the crowd in the primary section of the cafe. “And now here we are.”