Dreams of opening a restaurant are the obvious inspiration for most pop-up eateries, but very few make the leap to a brick and mortar space.
Steven Hall and Abby Olitzky are on their way to sticking that landing. The young couple (they recently became engaged) plan to open a restaurant and cheese bar in downtown Ann Arbor called Spencer. In preparation, they spent a couple of years toiling as a pop-up restaurant and catering service called Central Provisions. They intended to open the restaurant under the same name but discovered there is already an eatery with the same moniker in Maine.
"We decided it's not worth the confusion," Hall says. "We saw the restaurant opening as a good opportunity to change the name."
Spencer is set to open this fall at 113 E Liberty. It will occupy 1,200 square feet and be able to seat about 50 people. The couple are leaving their day jobs at Zingerman's and Sweet Heather Anne (as well as the pop-up gig) to open Spencer.
"The goal had always been to have our own restaurant," Hall says. "The pop-up was an easy way to build up our name and reputation."
They do have some pointers for people looking to do the same:
– Take your time. Use the pop-up experience to perfect our cooking and management skills. The sharper those skills the easier the transition to a brick-and-mortar space. Also use that time to build out a support network of professionals in the space and find the best place to open shop. Hall and Olitzky thought they had found the perfect space a few times before locking down their current location.
– Don't settle. Take the time you are biding to search out a number of locations. Figure out which type will work best with what you're trying to do. Hall and Olitzky figured out a place that was ADA compliant and had built in kitchen equipment meant more to them than the character of a raw space that had never been a restaurant before.
– Hustle to make money. Pop-ups aren’t enough to support a comfortable adult lifestyle. Hall and Olitzky supplemented their income from pop-ups with day jobs in the food industry and after-hours catering gigs in their spare time.
"It's definitely all about the hustle," Hall says.
Source: Steven Hall, co-owner of Central Provisions and Spencer
Writer: Jon Zemke