COMMUNITY; GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
By Michelle Cassell
CHAPEL HILL — A local restaurant is providing food entrepreneurs the chance to get their start.
Andrea Reusing, owner and chef of Lantern, is providing Basnight Alley area behind her restaurant to create what she and her partnerships hope will become a vibrant gathering spot in downtown Chapel Hill.
The project and space are called Garden Spot. It will support women and minority-owned companies seeking to develop their small food businesses in Chapel Hill.
Garden Spot results from a ReVive opportunity grant of $60,000 from the Town of Chapel Hill given to Reusing and her partners, including the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Durham Tech’s Small Business Center, and the Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro.
“She is taking an empty lot behind her space, and we’re going to open up that alleyway a couple of Friday and Saturday nights each month,” Dwight Bassett, Economic Director for Chapel Hill, said to The Local Reporter.
Reusing is the winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Southeast award in 2011. She could not be reached for comment by press.”
“We will target minority and women-owned businesses to have a vendor spot in the alley,” Bassett said. “Maybe we’ll have some music and dining in the alleyway and string some lights up, but it’s our way of promoting those early-stage entrepreneurs, especially in the minority- and women-owned field. We’re excited about that partnership.”
The Town of Chapel Hill and CHPD has funded new lighting for the venue to have its first event in April.
Participating food vendors will receive support services, including low-cost commercial kitchen space. The entrepreneurs can also access business mentorship, marketing and business development advice.
“The plan is to activate that space with as many things as possible. So in addition to any vendors out there, it could be a pop-up market, a food event, live music. The plans are to do as much as possible in that space,” HPD Director of Marketing Stephanie Colbert said.
The venue is closed to established vendors.
“This is for startup entrepreneurs that want to figure out how to run a business and see if they can make a debut in the community,” said Colbert.
Vendor applicants will be reviewed by a partnership team on a rolling basis, with interviews conducted in March, August, and November each year. The 3-4 vendors will have a residency period of four weeks.
The town’s Community Arts and Culture Division provided a stipend to create a mural near the Garden Spot location. It commissioned Mayanthi Jayawardena from Serendib Creative to paint a mural, “Lotus Rising-An Ode to Women,” on the side of Reusing’s restaurant.
The mural is displayed on the corner of West Franklin St. and Basnight Lane and was completed during Women’s History Month in March.
“It notably marks the entrance to the Garden Spot and what we are trying to create,” said Colbert.
Bassett said the mural creates a “community space that celebrates and uplifts women and marginalized voices. Themes of gold and lotus flowers are seen throughout the design, symbolizing resilience, illumination, and wisdom. The lotus flower, or water lily, is the national flower of Sri Lanka, representing the artist’s native culture.
“We can’t wait to showcase The Garden Spot, and we hope that all of our residents and visitors to downtown take advantage of it and enjoy it. And we can’t wait to work with Lantern to showcase all of their vendors,” Colbert said.