New Beginnings in bradford
The Kearsarge Food hub is partnering with Unless, LLC. to revive a town icon, the old Bradford Inn (most recently the Thistle and Shamrock Inn). The building was purchased by Unless LLC in 2016 after sitting abandoned for almost 15 years. Collectively we are infusing the space with new purpose as a local food, wellness and community resource center for Bradford and the surrounding Kearsarge/Lake Sunapee area.
The bradford innovation project
Our mission is to create a vibrant community hub wherein business innovation and community engagement is encouraged and supported on all levels. We are devoted to building a strong and accessible local food and community resource center through facilitating partnerships, sharing resources, building infrastructure, and creating opportunities for food-based and community-driven entities. We are committed to fostering an inclusive community space and cultivating the critical heart beet that powers our community.
The Bradford INNovation project began when the building was purchased by Unless, LLC. in the summer of 2016. The Kearsarge Food Hub quickly struck up a partnership with the new owners with a shared vision of creating a vibrant community space. Sweet Beet moved to this space in the fall of 2016, upgrading from a seasonal farm stand to a year-round market. We stepped into a 3 story, 10,000 square foot behemoth of a building that had been virtually gutted by the previous owners and left sitting idle for years.
Unless, LLC and the Kearsarge Food Hub came together and what began as a seed grew into an actionable plan to develop, in essence, a community wellness center. We all knew that we wanted to bring some spark back to West Main Street in Bradford and create a space for the community to gather, a space where people could connect with each other and with the local food system.
Unless, LLC owns the building and feels strongly about sustainability and community wellness, and is willing and able to invest in those things through this project. The Kearsarge Food Hub rents space for hub operations, including Sweet Beet Market, and also participates heavily in the design and development of the building through the perspective of local food. It is a unique and encouraging collaboration, where complimentary skill sets and abilities will ensure that something magical happens.
At the heart of our ambition to revive the old Bradford Inn is the desire, and real need, to create a space for the community to come together to share food, ideas, conversation, and even business. We've heard from so many folks who have lived in Bradford for years that when certain businesses left town, such as the local grocery store, the town lost something more than a store - it lost a space for people to casually bump into one another, make plans, and connect. Now we've seen first-hand how Sweet Beet Market has, in many respects, filled that void. With more community space, we could do even more to bring people together.
So that is the ultimate goal, to bring people together. This will happen through Sweet Beet Market, the Village Café, a shared-use commercial kitchen, an event space, private and shared office space, studio space, and who knows what else! All of these entities, while separate in structure, will collaborate toward the common mission of creating inclusive and welcoming community space.
While Unless, LLC started focusing on major building renovations, we turned our attention to designing the space. In the summer of 2017 we enlisted the help of our community to raise money for the shared-use commercial kitchen. Community members, visitors, local businesses and fellow nonprofits came together to show their support for this project, helping us to raise over $30,000.
We were absolutely blown away by the enthusiasm shown for this project - it was clear that there was a shared need for this new collective space.
Over the past winter we have been hard at work taking this vote of confidence and turning it into results. The focus has been important building renovations and updates, like septic and heat, and designing and developing the first floor. Bauer Construction is leading the way in the renovations, with help from Hub members, and all parties are working together to strategize and implement the plan.
Here's what is coming out of our efforts.
The development of the first floor is Phase One of the Bradford INNovation Project. It will include several entities working closely together and sharing infrastructure to increase access to local food.
Shared-Use Commercial Kitchen
The shared-use commercial kitchen will be the heart of this new space. It will be used by the Hub to bake daily bread, make meals for local pantries, and process farm excess (picture transforming the tomato abundance into sauce for the winter, pickling the bumper cucumber crop, or taking market leftovers and turning them into a tasty soup!) It will be used by the Village Café for all of their cooking and processing needs. There are also many other possibilities for the kitchen.
The Kearsarge Food Hub is the manager and an anchor tenant of the kitchen. The Village Café is another anchor tenant. Outside of those uses, the kitchen will be a community resource for things like healthy cooking classes and food preservation workshops. It can also be rented by local producers and entrepreneurs interested in testing out value-added production.
The details are still in formation. Stay tuned for updates on how the shared-use commercial kitchen will function.
Sweet Beet Market
Sweet Beet Market is the retail arm of the Kearsarge Food Hub. In the fall of 2016, Sweet Beet moved from downtown Bradford to the old Bradford Inn, graduating from a seasonal roadside farm stand to a year-round indoor market. Our goals for the market are the same as they were when we began as a farm stand - to develop a consistent market channel for local producers and create reliable access to local goods for patrons.
We have a couple bakers on the food hub team who are called to a duty: to bake daily bread for the community. The kitchen will be the place where this all goes down, and Sweet Beet Market will be the place where you can find the fruits of their labor.
The Village Cafe is set to open this summer and the Kearsarge Food Hub team is thrilled to be working alongside these talented ladies toward the shared mission of expanding the scope of healthy local food offerings for our community.
The cafe will be working closely with the Hub to source local produce and other ingredients, and to share local food processing infrastructure like the shared-use commercial kitchen. The hub and the cafe share the goal of reducing waste within the local food system by making the most of what we produce through food processing and preservation efforts.
Shared Community Event Space
The Inn is equipped with a beautiful river-side lawn and a big event hall on the first floor. With these resources, along with the kitchen, this will be a great space for events. Think poetry readings, open mic nights, and pop-up farm to table dinners!
These past few months have been all about research, design, renovations, and installation.
Here's a glimpse at the progress!
And, as always...
...the Sweet Beets are getting their hands dirty doing much of the renovations themselves!
Sweet Beet Market is currently closed as we focus on building renovations and market updates. We aim to reopen the market some time in June. The other first floor amenities will open this summer.
Stay tuned for opening details.
As for the second and third floors, there are many options and visions.
Currently a portion of the second floor is being rented as studio space for local artist Sandy Wadlington. We are designing more of the second floor as office space for ourselves and and friends Circular Blu, creating space for business and setting a tone of collaboration amongst mission-driven local businesses.
Beyond that, the idea of shared wellness space is very compelling and slowly coming into view. There is a lot of work to be done and potential to be realized!