“This – this is what we’re all about.”
Kaci Lyford has just triumphantly turned the corner, proudly displaying two bags bursting at the seams with laughably large, vividly yellow squash.
“This is what we’re talking about when we say local,” she continues. “Megan decided these were ready this morning, and took them from her farm down the road so we can sell them this afternoon. This is what we’re all about.”
What Patina Green is all about may not be obvious at first glance; one step through the door of the welcoming shop in Downtown McKinney reveals a trove of antiques, with bird cages and old picture frames next to weathered English downspouts filled with flowers, while three steps in leads to a produce market with a smiling chef making sandwiches and talking about today’s menu. Five more steps leads to some locally made soaps, and three more takes you to the dining area, where they’re also selling 130-year-old antique doors from a house down the street. To put it simply, at first glance Patina Green appears to be an antique store with a lunchtime kitchen. But as Kaci’s excitement with the produce so clearly illustrates, it’s about a whole lot more than just old knickknacks and midday fare.
“We like to say that in order to be here, everything has to have a story, whether it’s the food or the merchandise. For instance, with our produce, I can tell you who grew it and where, or I can tell you all about the lady who makes my jalapeno jelly,” says Robert Lyford, Kaci’s husband, co-owner and the smiling chef behind the counter. “Or maybe we’ll find a great piece because we were in the fields and we met this old lady who finally wanted to let her cabinet go – the cabinet that she’s had in her family for 90 years – because she’s ready to pass it on to somebody who wants to love it again.”
What Patina Green is really, is a confluence of passions; there is Robert, a graduate of the California Culinary Institute and Rosewood Mansion alumnus (among others), and there’s Kaci, who brings her designer’s talent and experience with refurbishing and repurposing home decor to the table. Luann Van Winckel, Kaci’s mother, who’s shared interest in home decor as well as proficiency with design rounds out the talented trio.
“When the economy fell out, it really gave us some perspective on what we wanted to do,” says Robert. “And we all decided that we wanted to work together. And I think that you really get a feel for all three of our personalities in here; it’s not possible to do without the three of us. Kaci’s a great designer, but as far as laying things out, her mom’s easily the best of the three of us.
“And neither of them can cook,” he adds with a quick smile as Kaci nods and grins in agreement.
While Robert’s talent in the kitchen may be something admirable in and of itself, its what he chooses to use that sets Patina Green truly apart from a dining perspective. Seasonal, artisan, local and ethical may be popular buzzwords in the culinary world today, but to him, they’re gospel. Ask him a question about his jams and he’ll explain why he takes the time to reduce it rather than using processed pectin; ask him where the fruit for the jam was sourced, and he’ll tell you a story about the farmer down the road who grew it. His eyes brighten at the prospect of fall, because then he can make his squash sandwiches, which are among his favorite. There are, of course, others who hold favorites of their own.
But favorites can be difficult to choose – especially when farm-fresh produce, myriad local meats, cheeses from around Texas and house-made (or Empire-Bakery) bread dictate the menu. One day, Robert may decide on lamb meatloaf sandwiches with arugula and walnut pesto and sandwiches with local tomatoes, Mill-King Cheddar and sweet onion aioli on sourdough. Of course, on Fridays, lunch options will always included the BoB – the brisket on a biscuit; braised brisket on a house-made smoked cheddar biscuit with jalapeno-blackberry jelly.
“What’s great about it is that Robert can come in, see what we have an abundance of in the market, and make lunch with it,” says Kaci. “So it’s always going to be as fresh as possible and there’s always going to be a lot of creativity involved.”
Of course, it’s difficult not to be sidetracked on the way to the ordering counter with the myriad items the Lyfords and Van Winckel have acquired for their shop; yes, there are the bird cages – with singing sparrows – old English downsports sturdily holding their new charge (a few dozen flowers) and old picture frames – many made from the repurposed wood from old barns – and letters dot Patina Green, while soaps made from across town and jewelry made just blocks away lend credence to the Lyford’s goal of maintaining a local focus. The idea of Patina Green is likely best illustrated in their dining room, where about a dozen old, frameless doors await their new home.
“Well, these doors are a great example – I’m not in the door business per se, but I am currently because they are tearing down a house that’s just walking distance from the square, and it’s one of the original houses that was built in McKinney in the late 1860’s. Unfortunately, they’re doing a full remodel on it and they had no use for the doors,” says Kaci. “So we went in and took all the doors out of the house. It’s the original hardware, and they’re solid wood doors over a hundred years old; I just couldn’t let them go to the dump. If somebody else were building a house here, these are doors that could easily get reused.”
And it’s not just doors that get reused. In fact, if there’s an overlaying theme to Patina Green, its using things properly – and to their fullest potential. Shopping bags from Starbucks and Badgley Mischka get repurposed as Patina Green bags, and customers are encouraged to bring in old magazines for others to read during lunch. The paper the sandwiches are wrapped in is 100 percent recycled, and yes, they do of course have a recycling bin. Even the food scraps are reused to feed the pigs at Truth Hill Farm in Farmersville – where Robert sources much of his pork. While the Patina part of the name is clear, the Green part is deliberate.
Patina Green is, in fact, an antique store with a kitchen in it. Yes, there may be a woman walking around with bags of squash or a butcher with a cooler of beef walking around inside, but to call it an antique store would technically be correct. But it would also be incomplete – antique stores don’t make a habit of packing and selling their own house-churned butter or pickled vegetables. Elephant garlic grown just a few miles away might never be found at most of them, and a professional, experienced chef with a focus on fresh and creative cuisine will most likely not be found at The Antique Megastore.
But for all the things that Patina Green is, Robert perhaps sums it up most effectively.
“Get good stuff and don’t mess it up. That’s an easy way of doing things.”