story and photos by Cindy Ruggieri
Every time I walk into Carol’s Art Bar in Owego, my senses come alive. It’s the smell of the coffee. The brilliant colors in the art work on the walls. The gentle sounds of the live music. It’s soothing and relaxing, which is exactly what Carol Livermore-Ostrander envisioned when she opened her café.
Art has always been a part of her life. After earning a bachelor of arts in fine arts at Binghamton University, Livermore-Ostrander then spent a 30-year career as a floral designer. But always she painted, between working and raising her family.
Her paintings are filled with bold, vivid colors, often with a floral theme. “I always want to capture a moment in time, as when a flower is in full bloom and totally perfect for a very short period of time,” she says. Livermore-Ostrander’s preferred medium is oil painting on canvas, and she often used her front porch as her studio, to accommodate several 5’ by 8’ paintings. She has displayed her work at Cornell University, the Bruce Nelson Art Trailer and at the Binghamton Art Walk. But there was always more she wanted to do with her art.
When the current location of Carol’s Art Bar in downtown Owego became available in 2015, it seemed like the right time for Livermore-Ostrander to take a leap of faith and open her business. “I always had this dream to open an art gallery type of coffee café, with comfy couches where folks could relax, enjoy good coffee and homemade comfort food while enjoying the artwork,” she says. She certainly achieved her dream, with art work covering the tables and exposed brick walls (even in the restroom!); delicious, homemade organic-based food; and a huge variety of specialty coffee drinks.
The menu is fun, with salads and specialty sandwiches named after artists. You can select sandwiches such as the Picasso, Monet or Rembrandt, or salads called the El Greco, Renoir and the Grandma Moses. Original creations include the homemade breakfast bagels, Livermore-Ostrander’s daily soup varieties and her husband Dave’s chili. I never leave without taking home my personal favorite – her huge biscotti, my perfect coffee-break companion.
Every day includes midday live music, such as a singer with a guitar or a musician with a hammered dulcimer. Music is piped onto the street, a soothing welcome for both passersby and patrons.
In addition to all of the offerings in her café, it is Livermore-Ostrander herself who keeps her customers returning time and again. Greeting folks as they walk in the door or stopping to chat at a table, she is always ready with a smile and her warm, welcoming style.
Each month, Carol’s Art Bar hosts a different guest artist displaying work on the front wall. It’s Livermore-Ostrander’s way of supporting local artists. An opening night for the artist is always included as part of the Owego First Friday Art Walk.
Livermore-Ostrander had just completed her fifth year in business when Covid hit, and like most small businesses, she was greatly impacted. Although she lost staff and business, she was able to keep going with strong community support and creative ways to keep the café open. With eased restrictions and business back in gear, Livermore-Ostrander is looking forward to restarting evening events that had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. She is currently making plans to restart two popular events: a beginner art class, which she teaches, and an open mic night.
Carol’s Art Bar is café, gallery and coffee shop all under one roof. Stop in and check it out. Take time to relax, enjoy the art and soothe your soul.
Visit carolscoffeeandartbar.com to learn more.
There is a black sign with white lettering in the window of Carol’s Art Bar with the slogan “Where Women Percolate, another historic Owego woman-owned business.” It’s one of almost 50 of these signs displayed around Owego, a celebration of all the woman-owned and woman-managed businesses in the community. Each has a slogan appropriate for the business, such as “Where Women Make the Cut” for the barbershop, “Where Women Move” for the Pilates studio and “Where Women Taco ‘bout Everything” at the Mexican restaurant. “It started when local artist Chris Knickerbocker was featured in the magazine Where Women Create, and with permission from the magazine, she made the push to recognize local women-owned and women-managed businesses with the signs,” explains Rebecca Maffei, director of Tioga County Tourism. “I spent some time walking around the downtown area looking for the signs, and I couldn’t help but smile at the creative slogans. I join in the celebration of all the women-owned businesses and the difference they are making in the community. You go girl, keep up the good work!”