From the Arkansas Times. Photo by Brian Chilson.
I recently had the opportunity to visit with Root Cafe owners Jack and Corri Bristow Sundell about the origins of their local food cafe, their inspirations, and plans for the future.
A upcoming discussion with the Root owners will air during Ozarks at Large‘s series about local businesses in Arkansas and will explore their thoughts on the importance of eating local, the inspiration behind the cafe, and their plans for the future. I’ll be posting more about that soon.
I had the opportunity to write this piece for the Arkansas Times, published yesterday, examining their sustainable business model and the four years of fundraising that led to opening their doors. Here’s an expert from the article. To read the whole thing visit Arkansas Times or follow the link below. You can also pick up printed copies of the Times throughout central Arkansas.
We’d love to hear more about other sustainable business models in your area. Leave a comment or send us an email!
From the Arkansas Times:
The Root of All Success: Sustainability Means More than Just Food.
After four years of planning, the Root Cafe opened in June of this year. The locavore-friendly South Main area restaurant is a great place to get a juicy all-beef burger made with Arkansas-raised beef or a melt-in-your mouth vegan doughnut. But when it comes to sustainability, owners Jack and Corri Bristow Sundell took the concept beyond what’s on the menu.
In addition to using small-scale, local suppliers — all of their meats are sourced locally, and a large percentage of their vegetables and cheeses are grown and produced in the region — they also took a sustainable approach to financing.
In 2007 they started small, raising awareness and money for the cafe long before they ever secured a location. “When we started looking into business research and writing a business plan,” Jack said, “we could see that, for a lot of small businesses, the money they have to repay in loans ends up being one of the things they can’t sustain.”
It took about $30,000 to get the cafe up and running. They took out a $10,000 bank loan, but most of the money was raised prior to opening their doors. Assistance also came via landowner Anita Davis who finished out the interior of the 900-square-foot former Sweden Creme after the lease was signed “and built it to suit a lot of specifications,” Corri said.
The pair adopted a micro-funding approach and hosted fundraising dinners at locations throughout town, generating interest in — and money for — the eventual storefront. Some of their most successful fund-raising efforts, Jack said, were the canning and food preservation workshops. “Initially we were thinking, well, this is something we’ll have to really get people interested in because no one does canning or food preservation anymore. But it turned out that, once we put the idea out there, there were more people interested than we could accommodate in the classes,” he said