Get to know Gather 256, a new caffeinated creative space in downtown York

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

The closing of I-ron-ic Coffee Shop in downtown York City left a void for many of its longtime customers, including the artists who called the space home.

That void will be filled by a new café, Gather 256, that aims to offer a similar experience.

"We're lucky to be able to follow in Dave and Steve's footsteps," said Gather 256's owner Sarah Cahill, referring to former owners Steve Billet and Dave Smith. The establishment's name comes from its address: 256 W. Philadelphia St.

"I have more experience on the culinary side," Cahill said. "And so I'm hoping to bring more of a food culture to our space than what was here previously."

Gather 256 still sells local art and has a plant studio in part of the upstairs space. Cahill said the café also still serves as a community hub for celebrations, gatherings, book clubs, workshops, writers groups and more.

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Gather 256 is located in the WeCo District of York City, the business district that Cahill has seen grow.

"[It's] definitely undergone a lot of change over the last few years," she said, "and is kind of becoming a more lively place. And so we're pretty excited to be able to help foster that transition."

Cahill and her husband have lived in York for 10 years and have an 8-year-old daughter. However, this isn't her first foray into food service. Cahill graduated from culinary school in 2008 and previously worked as an executive chef in North Carolina. After meeting her husband and getting married, Cahill left her job and moved to York.

Photos of Gather 256 and of Chef/Owner Sarah Cahill in York on March 16, 2023.

After taking time to enjoy being with family, Cahill jumped back into the industry. She taught culinary arts at the YTI Career Institute for a while, and before opening Gather 256 she had been doing personal chef services, food styling and catering.

"It's nice to kind of bring together the community that was already here and my own community, both as a resident and as a chef. And for those things to kind of converge has been really awesome," Cahill said.

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Owning and operating a café is a first for Cahill, who lives nearby and often traverses Philadelphia Street. On her way home from CrossFit one day, she saw the building was up for sale.

"The reality is that I was not looking for a restaurant to open, I just felt like it was the right fit at the right time," Cahill said.

Photos of Gather 256 and of Chef/Owner Sarah Cahill in York on March 16, 2023.

As a working mom, finding a space that had pre-installed equipment for a café and recently housed a business made opening Gather 256 much easier to open than if she had to build from the ground up.

"This really just fit where I was in my life and what my family wanted and needed. And my skill set. And so it's been great," Cahill said.

After looking at the space, Cahill asked to meet Billet and Smith. She felt that because I-ron-ic and the space itself were very personal to them and the community, Cahill wanted to get to know them and, as the buyer, be a caretaker for the space after they were gone.

Cahill, Billet and Smith are still connected, she said, and the two men have been great supporters as the business opened to help Cahill discuss things or and ask questions.

Steve Billet, co-owner of i-ron-ic Coffee Shop and Art Boutique, in center, speaking with customers in York on Dec. 3, 2022.

Moving forward, Gather 256 will continue to be a community space, and Cahill is currently building the menu by adding sandwiches and desserts. "We're just continuing to explore and expand, and to continue to expand what we're able to offer in this space. ... And we want to be a resource for the community," Cahill said.

Gather 256 is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Cahill is looking to add evening hours and possibly fine dining opportunities as well, she said. For more information on Gather 256 visit the café Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Gather256/

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— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.