Kelowna restaurant survives by becoming cafe, farmer’s market
A Kelowna restaurant struggling with COVID-19 restrictions is pivoting its business model to become more farmer’s market-like.
Christopher Foster is a co-partner of the 509 Market Cafe, who worked with the owner of the former AT 509 owner to keep the business alive when it considered closing in April.
“I had a hummus company I started in Calgary in 2016 so I was trying to find a way to sell products at the farmer’s market this summer, and I decided why not start a market that other people like me could use in this space on Bernard Avenue so I could sell my hummus and other people could sell their wares as well,” he said.
The market and cafe act much like a farmer’s market and showcases items that are sold by local vendors.
Fresh produce is delivered by Quality Greens Farm Market to fill in the gaps that locals can’t supply yet but they also have local contracts with farmers for supplies. Sandwiches are made using Sprout Bakery sourdough for sandwiches and they offer different vegan options for their food, Foster said.
“Now things are stable, we’re moving forward. We’re starting to build an online store for the fall and the winter to start deliveries, trying to focus more on an organic or health based side,” Foster said.
They're also exploring partnerships to supply different vendors with their own products as well. They don’t have an official application form for vendors, and they’re doing business the old fashion way through their connections and people visiting the market, he said.
“We’ve started finding independent farmers for bulk crops like strawberries and asparagus and getting into the cherries and blueberries for the summer,” he said.
The market cafe opened in late April at 509 Bernard Avenue in the former restaurant location.
“We’re getting a great response from the community and a lot of return customers,” he said, adding there are vegan and gluten-free options with its in-house bakery. The cafe also makes specialty juices.
The market is currently set up outside on the patio, he said.
“Things are just growing and getting busier,” he said. “We’re finding more and more people stopping by every day."
Over the winter, they also plan to start up a greenhouse to supply residents and Foster thinks the location is great as people continue to move into the downtown core.
“Right now, you just can't force a baby to run, we’re just taking it as it comes and see what it leads us to,” he said.
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