Above: The COVID-19 slowdown gave Samantha Ross (l) and Olivia Brinton the time and motivation needed to create the concept behind their first joint venture.

By David Ferguson
Photos by Lindsay Rudney duPhily

It was a Wednesday morning in October of 2021, and I was seated at the bar in The Peach Blossom Eatery, a new restaurant in Newark. This was a soft opening, and with the grand opening only a few days away, staff training was in full swing. 

Behind the counter, owners Samantha Ross and Olivia Brinton shouted words like:

“Hands!” (Someone please come take this hot plate of food to the table).

“Corner!” (Look out! I’m rounding the corner, and I may or may not have a full bowl of soup in my hand; often accompanied by “Hot!”).

“Service!” (Tables need clearing, and I need help!).

Although this is their first joint venture, Ross and Brinton have been friends since they met while working at Hockessin’s House of William and Merry in 2014. They started as members of the House’s service team and worked through the ranks before moving on to other ventures. Brinton opened the popular Little Goat Coffee Roasting Co. in Newark, while Ross went to help open and cook at Philadelphia’s famous Condesa.

While focusing on those ventures, they remained close friends. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, a laid-off Ross and a less-busy Brinton began brainstorming the idea for a restaurant. One year later, they committed to opening The Peach Blossom Eatery — named after Delaware’s State Flower and later abbreviated to “Peaches” by many of its regulars. 

Katherine Christen (l) and Isabel Ernenwein place an order with Peach Blossom manager Antoinette Ross.

“At first, we thought it would be more of a grab-and-go place,” says Brinton. “We didn’t think of having a full menu or even seated dining, let alone a bar. I thought we were opening a high-end grocery store.”

“And slowly but surely, I clawed away at her to make a larger and more diverse menu,” laughs Ross.

After touring a few locations, they realized that they wanted to provide something new for Newark — a destination that was like no other on Main Street. Two months later, their vision finally began to take form, and the partners signed the lease for 76 E. Main. 

At the same time, the diverse menu that Ross had dreamed about began to take shape. The basic concept behind the menu is fairly simple: They wanted each dish to be prepared with as much locally sourced produce as possible. 

But keeping fresh, local vegetables and other ingredients readily available throughout the year is virtually impossible. Where, for instance, can you find fresh, locally grown corn in January? While other establishments went out of the area to acquire produce to maintain their menus, Ross and Brinton decided to simply change the menu as the seasons changed. 

Fresh-baked pastries are a specialty at The Peach Blossom.

“We have a few staples that stay on the menu all year, but most of the items we offer tend to change depending on what we can get from local farmers and what is fresh,” says Ross, adding, “fresh food is the best!” 

Says Brinton: “We also want to change our menu often with the season so that we don’t become comfortable with customers coming in and ordering the same thing. We want there to be new and exciting dishes as much as possible.”

The menu is full of creative vegan and vegetarian items such as the vegan breakfast burrito, garden toast, and summer salad, as well as non-diet-restrictive items, including Papa Tony’s French toast (smothered in a poached fruit syrup), the hefty breakfast burrito (filled with eggs and sausage), and the ever-changing chicken cutty. Delicious pastries and hand pies are made in house.  

The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and does not offer dinner. And those hours, Ross and Brinton assert, will not change. They believe that every person deserves to live healthfully, and that includes time away from work, time for family and friends, time to relax. After years of toiling in the fine dining industry, they recognize that a healthy life is a lot harder to come by while working countless hours late into the night, and they don’t want that for their team. 

(L-R) Owners Olivia Brinton Sam Ross.

“We have focused on providing a healthy lifestyle in an industry that is historically unhealthy,” says Brinton. “It’s not all about the food. We try to provide a healthy mindset to our customers and our team. We don’t have a designated uniform; we let them dress how they feel the most comfortable. At the same time, we want our guests to be greeted by an individual and to feel like they’re with friends. We want to provide an environment where guests and servers can say, ‘I see you as a person’ to each other. I think we’re doing a good job with that.”

Their customers seem to agree. It’s been almost a year since the grand opening on Halloween of 2021, and The Peach Blossom Eatery continues to bloom no matter the season. While summer is always a slower period for most restaurants in Newark, The Peach Blossom is busy. On a hot Sunday in July, it had record sales, despite the absence of UD students. 

While the two owners deserve most of the credit for the eatery’s success, they are quick to share that credit. “We’re all a team here,” says Brinton. “Neither Sam nor I consider ourselves bosses; that term is a little harsh. Yes, we started this place, but we had a lot of help, and we look to all members of the Peaches family to be leaders as well. This is a place for everyone.”

— For menus and more, go to PeachBlossomEatery.com

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