After delays pushed back its opening multiple times, Culture Counter is open in the Rountree neighborhood.
The market and cafe launched June 2 at 607 E. Pickwick Ave. in the former space of Homegrown Food, which closed in 2018.
Owner Bryce Gott, who gutted the former Homegrown Food interior, said he took on much of the renovation and infill work himself. That, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, significantly delayed the opening – which he had planned in September 2019, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
“It did take quite a long time, definitely longer than I was anticipating,” he said. “Part of that is it’s just my first project at building in a commercial space.”
Gott said his startup costs exceeded his original estimate of $125,000, but he declined to say by how much. He is on a three-year lease with Ryan and Amanda Owens for an undisclosed rate. The Owens started Homegrown Food in 2010, according to past reporting.
Roughly two dozen vendors have products for sale in the market, he said, including Springfield-based Urban Roots Farm LLC, Millsap Farms LLC and Date Lady Inc.
Culture Counter’s cafe includes a breakfast and lunch menu, featuring waffle, salad and hot food bars. The cafe eventually will be able to offer indoor seating, but all orders are to-go only at this time, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gott said.
A walk-up order window selling drinks and ice cream, including unique flavors such as lemon blueberry, also is operational. Vegan ice cream also is on the menu.
Due to COVID-19, the occupancy limit of the 1,300-square-foot store is currently restricted to eight people, Gott said.
“It’s was a really weird week to start business,” he said. “But it went really well. We weren’t overwhelmed and that was an important thing for growing in the right direction.”
Culture Counter currently employs four, and Gott said he hopes to double the workforce within the next couple of weeks. Karen Brooks-Pender is the chef and kitchen manager, who Gott said worked for the past nine years with MaMa Jean’s Natural Foods Market LLC. She replaces Shawnee Bullette, who was previously announced as kitchen and products manager. Gott said Bullette moved to the Noel area earlier this year.
Two other projects in the Rountree neighborhood also are nearing a debut. A brick-and-mortar space for Skully’s Food Truck is set to open as early as this week, according to a post on the eatery’s Facebook page. Additionally, a Facebook post from The Royal, a live music and bar venue owned by B.J. Lawrence, notes hiring has commenced. Both ventures occupy a newly renovated building at 1427 E. Cherry St.
Additionally, Artistree Pottery LLC and Greens, a florist company, were set to open at 1423 E. Cherry St. later this year. However, Greens, which shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, has closed permanently, according to a May 7 Facebook post from the company.
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