As many people face rising costs due to inflation, two business owners in Poulsbo are sharing the same storefront on Viking Avenue to keep rental and other costs down.
Oxalis Kitchen and Sweet & Savories, which were initially food vendors at the Poulsbo Farmers Market, now share a kitchen space called Poulsbo Kitchen Collective where both operate and offer their own menu items.
Sweet & Savories is open Mondays and Tuesdays and is looking to add Sundays in March, while Oxalis Kitchen is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Oxalis Kitchen is a locally sourced neighborhood cafe offering breakfast, lunch, baked goods and espresso. Darice Grass started the business in 2018 at the farmers Market.
When Grass first started Oxalis, she had been renting space in a commissary kitchen on Port Gamble Road, but rising costs made that tough to be a long-term solution.
“The amount of time and money I was putting in, it was not sustainable for my family,” she said. “I determined that I needed to either grow my business or close it. I wanted to bring on staff to grow my business, but it made more sense to do that in a space of my own.”
Rental cost was a factor, but not the only one. “I was less concerned with being able to afford the rent after I had the storefront open and more concerned with the financial investment of getting the cafe open. Building out a restaurant is expensive and while I had been working very hard and saving money since I’d started my business, I still would have needed a big loan to build a space on my own,” Grass said. “Big loans for small business owners with cafe dreams are hard to come by.”
While Oxalis is a relatively new business, Sweet & Savories has been around since 1992, catering food at the Kingston Farmers Market and for private clients and events. Owner Eileen France specializes in wedding cakes, desserts, fresh foods, seasonal ingredients, working with local farmers, and utilizing traditional and contemporary techniques. Sweet & Savories will also be selling products at the Poulsbo Farmers Market starting in April.
Grass ended up meeting France at the Poulsbo Farmers Market a few years ago, and they began forming ideas for a partnership. France was also looking for cheaper rental options.
“We would talk at the market, and I knew she was interested in a space, but we didn’t have a clear plan,” Grass said.
After finding their location at 20149 Viking Ave., a complete buildout took place to make the space a commercial kitchen and cafe. Oxalis began serving the public last February, and Sweet & Savories opened a month later.
“We both prioritize scratch-cooking and local sourcing—working directly with farmers when they have product to offer,” Grass said. “When we first set out on this project I didn’t actually realize how similar it would be, but I think it really works either way.”
While sharing a space has benefits, Grass said it definitely takes some extra effort to close down one business and open the other so quickly. That is why they decided to have both operate multiple days in a row instead of staggered days to reduce the workload. France loads in her supply Monday mornings and pulls her product on Tuesdays after closing. Then, Oxalis loads on Wednesday mornings and pulls product after closing on Saturdays.
“We try to share as much as we can to minimize the need for storing duplicates, without creating a bookkeeping headache,” Grass said. “For example, we have a sandwich board that we can flip inside out for whichever of us is operating, and a chalkboard that we write specials on. Both of our hours are permanently listed on the door, and we had to make design decisions that allowed for both.”
Both businesses use the kitchen for prep, production, storage and deliveries.
“The primary change between service is setting up the kitchen line to support the menu being served by the operating business, and rewriting the specials chalkboard, plus resetting the front counter with our specific standing menus,” France said. “The space was designed to allow a quick turnaround between the two businesses.”
Grass said both businesses are now used to sharing spaces and working in the kitchen with others.
“We designed the space so that the front cafe portion could function without relying too much on the kitchen and prep area, making it easier for prep to take place in the back at any time,” she said. “A second entrance would be great, but instead we try to minimize disruptions of loading supplies in and out while the other is open for business.”
While the two businesses haven’t necessarily collaborated on anything yet, one aspect they do work together on is maintenance.
“Restaurants are such a huge investment and a labor of love, and small business owners wear a lot of hats,” Grass said. “It is a huge relief to have someone share maintenance of our equipment. We can also utilize our partnership to place orders with some of our vendors that have higher minimums.”
Neither is interested in getting their own space anytime soon because of how well the space is working for them.
“It is work to maintain a good space for one another, but there are so many benefits to our partnership, and I am really happy with our arrangement,” Grass said.
France added: “Sharing the space is working. Any way we slice it, it will be hard work, and any way we can figure out how to give ourselves a leg up we should try.”