One Acre Cafe has signed a five-year lease and is on track to open this fall in the building at 603 W. Walnut St. formerly occupied by the Dessert Rose Mexican restaurant.
Executive Director Jan Orchard said work days at the building will be scheduled soon and posted on the One Acre Cafe Facebook page for volunteers who wish to sign up.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of things to brighten it up and give it an more upscale appearance. A warm and friendly atmosphere is we want.”
The cafe is an affiliate of the national One World Everybody Eats hunger-fighting and community building program that invites everyone “to eat what they want and pay what they can.” Its goal is to address the risk of hunger experienced by 20 percent of Northeast Tennessee residents who live at or below the federal poverty level by focusing on community feeding, volunteerism and employment training.
The cafe’s menu will feature dishes prepared with locally grown produce and everyone will be welcome to eat regardless of their ability to pay and to gain job skills and experience by volunteering in its operation. Diners will include those who can afford to pay and wish to positively impact the lives of others less fortunate, as well as those who cannot pay but can work one hour at the cafe in exchange for their meal.
Orchard said property owners Don and Holly Johnson have provided a generous lease agreement and architect Tom Mozen of Mozen Etc. and interior designer Ginger Rockett of Bella Casa Design Studio have volunteered their services to improve both its interior and curb-side appeal.
The building is located across the street frim the former General Mills building owned by the local Chamber of Commerce and organizers are hopeful its renovation will spur the same type of revitalization on West Walnut Street that is occurring downtown.
Because the cafe will network with area farmers and markets for fresh produce, Orchard said she is pleased to be locating within a few blocks of the Johnson City Farmers Market on Cherry Street. The location was also favored because its close proximity to East Tennessee State University and the wealth of volunteers available from the university. It also is close to the Salvation Army and the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness which serve the same population the cafe will assist.
“We are excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for us in this commitment. We hope the community will continue to support us through donations of equipment, kitchen supplies, volunteering and financial donations. We still hope to open our doors in the fall,” Orchard said.
Efforts to open the cafe have been ongoing since August when the concept was introduced to representatives of nonprofit service agencies across the region aligned through ARCH. A introductory benefit gathering held in January at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough drew about 300 people interested in the cafe’s development.
Orchard said Eastman Chemical Co. has donated restaurant equipment for the cafe and organizers have launched a search for a chef “with a heart for healthy, nutritious food and for helping their community.”
“We will definitely need the community’s financial support and as we go along and we will be having some ‘as-it-is’ events with renderings to show people where we’re headed and how it will look. There’s a lot of work ahead of us.”
A benefit 5k Community Run to help the cafe get started will be held Saturday on the campus of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home. The entry fee is $15 for those who register by April 20 at the One Acre Cafe Facebook page or $20 on the morning of the run.
More information about the cafe and the Saturday benefit can be found at oneacrecafe.org and at the One Acre Cafe Facebook page, or by contacting Orchard at 833-8033 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Michelle Watts, cafe administrator, at 218-7900 or email@example.com.
In addition to a chef, the cafe’s immediate needs include a commercial gas stove, double-door freezers and tax-deductible donations that may be made by mail to P.O. Box 3411, Johnson City, TN 37602. Checks should be made payable to Summit Leadership Foundation and earmarked for One Acre Cafe.