Marketplace: Ellie’s Café expands offerings from catering to retail
The idea of opening a café came to Ellie Shropshire’s attention while she was thinking of ways to improve her business during the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses mentoring program. She mulled it over, but was nervous to step into the retail world.
More than a year later, she got a call from the Kimball Art Center asking if she wanted to open a restaurant inside the shop. She agreed and opened Ellie’s Café inside the art center in May.
Shropshire has operated a catering business around the corner from the art center for 15 years. For as long as she can remember, she has enjoyed cooking and serving food. She said that her core catering business has been going well, but she wanted to find a way to diversify her offerings. She participated in the Goldman Sachs program a couple of years ago and was encouraged to come up with ideas to “increase revenue and create jobs.”
For her final project in the course, she had to come up with a business growth plan.
“I really searched my brain long and hard about what that was going to be,” she said.
One of her friends suggested that she open a small deli. That way, deli clients could be introduced to her food and become catering clients. She liked the idea and began searching for a location she could work out of to sell food, but nothing felt right. She pushed the idea to the back of her mind and focused on her work.
But then, Uptown Fare in the Kimball Art Center closed. Shropshire missed the deadline to apply to fill the vacancy, but someone from the Kimball Art Center heard she might be interested and reached out.
“They called and said, ‘Do you have any interest?” and I said, “Yeah, actually I do. That’s exactly what I had been thinking to do,’” she said.
The café was open less than one month later.
“At the time, I thought it was small enough that it would be the perfect little step into this world,” she said.
But starting a new business has been more of a challenge than she was anticipating. Still, she is happy she jumped on the opportunity.
“I am learning a lot and am enjoying the process,” she said.
For now, the shop serves sandwiches, soups and desserts, but Shropshire is eager to expand her offerings to include espresso drinks and take-home dinner meals. She said that she plans to make those changes in the fall, after she enjoys a couple of calm months and the outdoor, dog-friendly dining area that is perhaps her favorite part of the new café.
She said that it has been fun to come up with new menu items for the café while still maintaining the fresh, organic and local ingredients that has made her so popular in the catering industry.
“It’s still our brand of delicious food and gracious service,” she said. “It’s all natural. It’s made right here.”
There is a set menu, including a spin on Uptown Fare’s famous turkey sandwich, but Shropshire is also experimenting with daily and weekly specials.
Shropshire said that she is happy to see the café open, and eager to see where the future takes her. As plans for an updated Kimball Art Center continue to be crafted, she hopes that she can be a part of the new space and continue to grow her business. Already, she said that the café is doing exactly what she hoped it would do — introduce clients to her catering side.
“It has already happened,” she said with a grin. “Somebody had lunch here and they called me and said, ‘I understand that you do catering, too,’ and asked me to cater.”
1401 Kearns Boulevard
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