The Chubby Muffin Becomes the Oak Street Cooperative

The Skinny Pancake completes deal with Oak Street Cooperative; a member-owned real estate initiative making way for two new restaurants. 

 

In June, the Oak Street Cooperative successfully purchased 88-90 Oak Street from the Skinny Pancake. The building, which until this past March housed The Chubby Muffin cafe and served as The Skinny Pancake’s production kitchen, is now owned by more than sixty-five members of the Vermont community. This collective real estate initiative is the first of its kind in Vermont. 

 

The Skinny Pancake Founder/Owner Benjy Adler explains, “We really wanted to find a way for the building to continue to serve our community and strengthen our food system. This cooperative ownership model exceeded our hopes and goals.”

 

Discussions first began in May 2019. The property went under contract in December to be sold in March. The pandemic disrupted the sale process, which was finally completed in June 2020. “The unusually long and collaborative sale process is a demonstration of our commitment to ensuring that every economic transaction we participate in will be leveraged as an opportunity to create positive change in our community,” Adler explains.

The Oak Street Cooperative began a public membership drive earlier this year and ultimately raised $200,000 of equity towards the purchase of 88 – 90 Oak Street. Any Vermonter could purchase a share in the cooperative for a minimum buy-in of $1000, receiving up to a 6% annual return in exchange. 

 

“I’d long admired examples of real estate cooperatives in communities like Minneapolis and Oakland, and knew the Burlington community could get behind this type of initiative,” Matt Cropp, Board Chair, says. “The fact we exceeded our initial $175,000 goal proves the viability of the model, and is providing inspiration for a second real estate cooperative deal that is now in the works in the neighborhood.”

 

The new vision for the space welcomes two new restaurant concepts, Poppy Cafe and Market and Cafe Mamajuana Restaurant & Market. Poppy will operate as a neighborhood breakfast and lunch cafe, while Cafe Mamajuana will offer Dominican Fusion in the evenings. There will be a small market component selling house-made goods and other local products.

 

Poppy will be owned and operated by sisters Emily and Abby Portman. “We’re excited to help create a collaborative space in Burlington that will be a meeting area for friends, a go-to spot for a delicious meal, a resource for community groups, and a place where people feel at home. As residents of the Old North End, we are thrilled to add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood,” they say. 

 

Cafe Mamajuana Owner, Maria Lara-Bregatta, goes on, “I look forward to opening a safe space for BIPOC living within Vermont and offer cuisine that is not only delicious– but that is true to our histories and DNA. The Old North End is ready for this kind of representation, diversity, and inclusion–and we are ready to bring it! I am so grateful for the O.N.E community for affording us this opportunity. We will not disappoint.”

 

The sale of the building officially closed on June 19th and the new tenants hope to re-open the space by the fall after some renovations. 

 

“Over the past decade, The Skinny Pancake has developed the Oak Street building into both a neighborhood hub and a vital resource for our local food system,” Matt Cropp says. “Our co-op is excited to build on that legacy as we strive to maximize the building’s positive community impact and sustainability.”

 

About The Skinny Pancake: Originating as a Church Street Marketplace vendor cart in 2003, the Skinny Pancake currently has 10 brick and mortar locations across Vermont. They operate a fast-casual creperie restaurant concept with a deep commitment to local sourcing. In addition to providing food and beverage, the Skinny Pancake celebrates their communities and practices philanthropic capitalism through their proud membership of 1% For the Planet. To learn more, visit www.skinnypancake.com

 

About The Oak Street Cooperative: Inspired by real estate cooperatives in cities like Minneapolis and Oakland that create a vehicle from broad-based community support and control, the Oak Street Cooperative was formed in January of 2020 to explore and raise funds for the purchase and operation of the building at 88-90 Oak Street. Oak Street Cooperative is owned and governed by more than sixty-five Vermonters who collectively invested $200k towards the purchase.

About Cafe Mamajuana:

Cafe Mamajuana is a Dominican Fusion Cafe, Market & Production Company based out of the Old North End. 

About Poppy Cafe and Market:

Poppy Cafe and Market is a sister-owned breakfast and lunch cafe based out of the Old North End. Their focus is on utilizing local ingredients, developing strong community partnerships, and helping to contribute towards a more resilient food system.

How To Open A Restaurant in the Middle of a Pandemic

The construction was nearing completion and the staff was mostly hired. Equipment had all been purchased. After years of practice, really for the first time ever, we were holding our timeline and set to open the newest Skinny Pancake at Stowe Village on April 15th, 2020. And then the pandemic struck. 

 

Rather than open a new location in April, we closed ALL Skinny Pancake locations in late March and launched ShiftMeals to support the charitable food system. By the end of May, we were producing over 6000 meals a week. By the end of June, ShiftMeals had made more than 50,000 meals for Vermonters experiencing food insecurity. In doing so, we piloted a program and worked to help write the legislation for a $5,000,000 CARES ACT allocation for VT to fund restaurants around the State to assist with emergency feeding efforts.

 

In late May, with the encouragement of the Federal government and their Payroll Protection Program, we began reopening existing locations. We started with our smallest and simplest outlet in downtown Montpelier. We next reopened our flagship location on the Burlington waterfront. Days later we re-opened in Quechee, VT. With each of these openings, we worked through the mental gymnastics of how to operate a restaurant during a pandemic. In each case, we created stacks of new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and circulated them with the staff emphasizing the importance of their safety and the safety of the guests, and thereby the importance of employee perspective and feedback on these proposed SOPs.

 

The business world became a pineapple upside-down cake. The financial bottom line is temporarily no longer one of the ‘triple bottom lines’ advocated for by sustainable businesses. The health and safety of staff and guests come first, foremost, and last. Federal funding through the PPP allows us the ability to operate with negative margins for a few months as we try to piece together something that is primarily SAFE, secondarily, pleasant for everyone and finally, hopefully, profitable enough to be viable once the funding runs out. 

 

And yet, we still had this nearly complete restaurant in Stowe, VT sitting there empty…with all the existing overhead and a team full of people expecting to be employed. 

 

So we set to work in doing the seemingly unthinkable: ramping up to open a restaurant during a pandemic. It is one thing to bring a tenured team back together and introduce a series of new rules and regulations like the use of facemasks at all times, taking the temperature of each staff member upon arriving, and new reservation and contact tracing requirements. It is a whole different ball of wax to manage all of the above AND train a mostly new team from soup to nuts on how we do the most fundamental work of pouring, spinning, flipping, stuffing and folding of a crepe alongside the dance of running and bussing food while generally taking care of the crepe lovers eager to get out of their homes.

 

The first thing we do when we bring a new team together is go around in a circle and have everyone introduce themselves, their position with The Skinny Pancake and perhaps something about their personal life or passion that they want to share. Now that process happens muffled behind face masks, hiding everyone’s genuine smiles. Training in the kitchen typically happens with a member of our leadership team standing side by side with a new cook, supporting their learning process. Now that work will happen at a 6-foot distance with the experienced member of our team monitoring and preparing to jump on the line if the new cook is struggling. 

 

And the restaurant itself will remain empty of patrons…we will only be serving out on our patio. This is by far and away the prettiest location we have ever built. The aesthetics are awesome. The walkways are generously wide. We have a sweet bar that is adjacent to a gosh darn fireplace! It came out better than we ever would have hoped for…and yet, upon opening there won’t be a big party of people checking out all the nooks and crannies of the place…rather, we will be taking reservations and carefully limiting the total volume of guests. 

 

Truth be told, it’s not all bad. Our team here in Stowe will benefit from a slower-paced opening. With just 8 tables on our patio to start, the volume of food coming out of the kitchen should be much more manageable than a typical grand opening. And even though everyone has been wearing face masks the whole time, the COVID-era highlights the value of human connection that so many of us have sometimes taken for granted in the past. Our sense is that our team may end up tighter than other crews when we launched new locations. After all, their health and safety will depend on each other in a way we’ve never known before. 

 

Of course, we miss the old days. Foodservice is all about community…both amongst the staff and our guests. Restaurants are a place to gather. Bars are a place ‘where everybody knows your name.’ That connection is a big part of why we’re all in this hospitality business and why we’re looking forward to its return. 

In the meantime, we still serve the essential function of feeding people while now more than ever also providing a relaxing, safe alternative venue for guests with a vigilant commitment to ensuring our team’s safety. 

 

We have officially opened our new location in downtown Stowe VT amidst this pandemic. Please join us in welcoming the newest Skinny Pancake baby to the family. 

 

Stay safe and keep up the kindness to others, Vermont. Our gratitude for calling this brave little state home is beyond words. 

 

-Benjy Pancake

A Note About COVID-19

Dearest community…

 

We are accustomed to sharing exciting news with you about our plans for the future. Indeed, we have a host of amazing stuff on the horizon. We look forward to telling you all about it, but in the here and now our focus is squarely on ensuring the health and safety of our staff and guests in light of the coronavirus.

 

We have been paying close attention to the news, CDC, Dept of Health as well as policies and procedures being issued by other organizations. The following is our current position on how to proceed with the greatest level of social responsibility:

 

It is our civic duty to ensure we maintain a safe environment for our employees and our guests. Everyone needs to be focused on ‘flattening the curve’ and slowing the spread of the disease as the best offense is a good defense right now. PLEASE JOIN US IN THIS EFFORT.

 

This article in The Washington Post makes the convincing case that “health experts believe that restaurants are “just as safe – perhaps even safer — than other public spaces.” Unless the CDC, Department of Health or evidence suggests otherwise, we do plan to continue to operate at all outlets with added precaution.

 

Next, we have made a series of precautionary changes at all Skinny Pancake outlets to increase the level of sanitation:

 

1. All major common area surfaces will be sanitized every three hours at all outlets.

 

2. Hand sanitizer is available for guests at major communal areas in our restaurants including our POS stations and coffee mixing areas.

 

3. All condiment bottles available to guests for self use will be removed. Condiments will be provided upon request to guests in small dishes.

 

4. Sadly, we will stop accepting reusable to-go mugs for the time being.

 

5. See something, say something: if you would like a surface wiped down or other sanitation procedures taken, please just let us know and we will act immediately.

 

6. Staff health and sanitation: while we have always emphasized the importance of washing hands and staying home when sick, we are implementing heightened sanitation and handwashing procedures with our staff. We maintain a Paid Sick Leave policy and have emphasized that if that proves insufficient, staff should reach out and we will explore extraordinary measures to ensure that staff do not come to work sick because they can’t afford the financial hardship of missing work.

 

7. We’ve engaged with our community and friends in food. We truly have a special community of restaurant groups where collaboration and support are the norm. With over 25 restaurants participating in an email string, we are all sharing our procedures and precautions and learning from each other’s best practices.

 

8. We have online ordering and we are pursuing delivery options through Snackpass in Hanover and DoorDash in Burlington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the changes we have enacted this week. Frankly, we will continue to monitor the situation obsessively and will update these procedures as needed.

 

It is going to require diligence from the entire community to ‘flatten the curve’ and snuff out this obnoxious virus. So please share any feedback you have about our plans and join us in this effort. 

 

With a full heart of gratitude for your many years of support of The Skinny Pancake…

 

-Benjy Adler 

CEO / Founder 

www.skinnypancake.com

The Chubby Muffin: A Love Story

In September, 2010, The Chubby Muffin opened its doors at 88 Oak Street in the Old North End of Burlington. This February, The Chubby Muffin will serve its last meal in the space it has called home for nearly a decade. Two weeks later, the building will sell and help catalyze a remarkable new co-operative that you can invest in. You can skip to the punchline and learn more about The Oak Street Real Estate Cooperative here, or settle back and join us as we take a little walk down memory lane and tell the story of The Chubby Muffin. 

 

It was 2009 and The Skinny Pancake was still a relatively young enterprise. And yet we already needed more space to support our busy venture on the Burlington Waterfront, a “mini-Skinny” down in Montpelier, our festival tour and the original street cart on The Church Street Marketplace. 

 

As we scouted around for solutions, we happened upon what would become The Chubby Muffin from a Thomas Hirschack Auction Company advertisement. The building was being foreclosed on and sold live at auction. A proud stand alone building deep in the Old North End. It was love at first sight. 

 

With only a few weeks notice, we came up with a plan: we would move the majority of kitchen prep from The Skinny Pancake. After completing the 88 Oak Street renovation, we would close The Skinny Pancake for three nerve-racking weeks to make room for more tables, chairs and a bar. With that plan in place, we got to work. Little did we know the hoop-jumping that was about to begin.  

 

How a Chubby Muffin ended up in this storied building has its own legend. The additional kitchen space for food prep and storage was the main motivator for us purchasing the space, but there was a catch. City Zoning ordinances required any business there to operate a commercial storefront. With a creperie right down the road, another Skinny Pancake didn’t make sense. Deep in the old north end, we knew the food would have to be casual and affordable. And so it was that we settled on our concept of coffee and muffins in the morning and a snack shack the rest of the day.

 

 

 

As for the name, a late-night “safety meeting” amongst our festival tour at Mountain Jam 2006 begot a campfire tale of sorts involving The Skinny Pancake’s alter-ego, a “Chubby Muffin.” When we awoke the next morning, our campsite had a prominent cardboard sign naming our weekend home “The Chubby Muffin.” From then on, the name had a way of sticking around. When the time came to name our new bakery project, it was ready-made. 

 

On a fateful day in the fall of 2009, with plans in hand and mind, we bid in real-time against experienced local landlords. This was not exactly your typical ‘starter home’ context. The price went up by $1000, $3000, $5000…nervous, anxious, palms sweaty, we kept bidding. Thankfully, others dropped out and we WON!  The building was old and tired. We were young and energetic. What a combination…

 

In 2010, we were a bootstrappy organization and then some. We wanted to keep our staff busy, so sent anyone with the energy and appetite to go work on the new building’s construction. General Contractors they were not, but for a gang of line cooks and baristas, they helped out seasoned trades as best they could scraping, painting and remodeling an old building. 

 

By March, 88 Oak Street was still under construction and The Skinny Pancake closed on schedule for renovations. With nearly no current revenue and disturbingly little administrative capacity, these few weeks were classic ‘pillow to pillow work.’ By April, The Skinny Pancake was back open. By May, the commissary was complete. In September 2010, a full year after the auction, The Chubby Muffin was born.

 

The neighborhood embraced The Chubby Muffin and business levels were solid. Folks were super complimentary of this affordable food oasis deep in the residential old north end. 

 

Now with three functioning storefronts and additional mobile operations, one would have expected the operation to be healthy. While we finally had the physical resources we needed and the restaurants were all thriving, it turned out that our growing economic engine still couldn’t support the weight of this commissary. It took about 3 years to build the business to cover the cost of the commissary…and then we quickly outgrew 88 Oak Street.

 

So it was back to the drawing board…again. When 88 Oak Street was purchased it came with a dilapidated shed outback. We paid $500 for the contents of that shed, only to pay about that same sum of money to two employees to haul it all to the dump. In the winter of 2013, with the airport operations soon to open, we tore down this kitty-littered shed to build an addition complete with a walk-in freezer which served to house thousands of pounds of local produce from our short, Vermont growing season year-round. 

 

 

With the 2013 renovation, we grew the building by roughly 66%. But alas, seven years later, we have once again outgrown this infrastructure. 88 Oak Street is bursting at the seams. We have run out of room to add space, equipment or people. Our driveway had run out of room to park our vehicles. The neighborhood is growing and the bakery itself is running out of room to serve all our customers. So the time had come for our metaphorical hermit crab to find a new shell. For the Skinny, that means moving our commissary kitchen to the Winooski space currently housing our catering team. But what to do with our beloved Chubby Muffin? 

 

To us, The Chubby Muffin is more than just the storefront. It is a commitment to the community and to our local food mission.

The Chubby Muffin has been the hub. The Skinny Pancake outlets have been our spokes. Millions of dollars of local food have passed through the building, been processed and sent to the spokes. In fact, the building itself was purchased under the LLC, “The Local Food Hub”. 

 

 

In business, the opportunity for impact happens with every economic transaction and the sale of this building would be a big one. So like many times before, we asked ourselves: “how can we make the most positive impact possible with this business decision?” Selling it on the open market to the highest bidder just wouldn’t do – what if they gutted all our hard work over the years to turn it into another apartment? For the locals who lived nearby and had so meaningfully supported us, we felt a responsibility to ensure a neighborhood cafe would continue to operate. For the farmers with whom we worked, we have an unwavering conviction to ensure our food mission only grows. So much like the steps we took a decade earlier, we put one foot in front of the next. The result is far better than we could have ever hoped for:

 

Starting this week, the Oak Street Real Estate Cooperative will be launching an investment campaign to help fund the purchase of 88 Oak Street (The Chubby Muffin). The Coop itself is spearheaded by Matt Cropp of The Vermont Employee Opportunity Center.

 

We first connected with Matt about selling the building in May 2019. We patiently waited for the past 6 months while he got his many ducks in a row. On a cold December day at The Radio Bean, we signed a Purchase and Sales agreement for 88 Oak Street.

 

The Oak Street Real Estate Cooperative is an awesome vision: any Vermont resident can buy a share for $1000 and expect up to a 6% annual return. This is a revolutionary approach to real estate that will allow average Vermonters to invest relatively smaller amounts of money locally. With this co-op, we have confidence that the community will continue to have a quality cafe nearby and our mission to help the local foodshed will be maintained. The Co-op will house Poppy’s, a cafe concept led by Abby and Emily Portman and Cafe Mamajuana, a Dominican food concept owned by Maria Lara-Bregatta. These two women-owned businesses will share many of the resources that any single restaurant would absorb as overhead, saving them tens of thousands of dollars a year.

 

When we look back on the past 10 years, a lot has changed in Burlington’s Old North End. “They” often say the first sign of a changing neighborhood is how many places there are to get a cup of coffee. There were very few restaurants in the ONE when the Chubby opened way back when, now it is referred to as Burlington’s “restaurant district.” In 2010, the two baristas on that opening team found themselves on a restaurant island, offering the only cup of coffee for blocks. Incidentally, those two baristas have kept close ties to that same neighborhood: Rob Blum operates Knead Bakery right around the corner and Michael Cyr is our very own Brand Director. 

Old buildings like 88 Oak are like living creatures in many ways. Ever evolving, growing, breaking, failing, fixing, and marching on. When we agreed to carry the torch of 88 Oak Street 10 years ago, we bought a dilapidated and neglected property. We’re proud to say we’re leaving this old creature much better than we found her with a new roof, new floor, an entirely new building out back, new furnace, new electric and gas lines and more. The Chubby Muffin will always hold a place in our hearts. We were privileged to have been able to work there and we are thrilled beyond expectations to see how she grows into her next iteration. 

 

Please click this link, learn more about The Oak Street Real Estate Co-operative and consider joining this remarkable, visionary endeavour. And of course, come get your Chubby Muffin on for the next six glorious weeks.

 

To all the patrons out there who have supported The Chubby Muffin over all these years, THANK YOU. Rest assured we have doubled over backward to ensure that the next iteration of 88 Oak Street will serve you well. To the generations of employees who made The Chubby Muffin so vibrant, thank you doesn’t come close to how we feel…but, THANK YOU. 

 

 

Peace from Pancakia,

 

-Benjy & The Team

The Curveball of a Lifetime

We wrote this memorial to a great adventure just about a year ago but never shared it. Upon reflecting on the anniversary of the Festival That Never Was, we decided to share this out. Here’s to all the remarkable people and big hearts involved.

 

August 21st, 2018: Back in January, we first began hearing rumblings of another Phish festival in the works for the summer of 2018 at Watkins Glen. So like any local food creperie would do, we reached out to Phish to see if we might be able to find a way to participate. Their response: “If you have any creative suggestions, we are always open to them.” This simple exchange was the beginning of a very real adventure that will prove to be a milestone in life for several of us who shared in it.

 

With our most creative thinking caps on, we fired back to Phish with a half dozen ideas ranging from a roving cart on wheels slinging crepes to the crowd mid-set, curating a VT Food Court, raising money for their non-profit, Waterwheel. We also threw out the idea of building a temporary Skinny Pancake with walls made from reclaimed wood and tables and chairs. Never did we think the most ambitious idea would be the one to land…

 

By March, we were honing in on a clear vision: The Skinny Pancake would produce a fast casual pop-up restaurant and an adjacent farmers market and beer garden. We iterated and iterated, marking up over a dozen layouts in all. Patience. Diligence. Persistence. This is the world of festival work. Empathy and understanding: the logistics are complicated when the practicalities of servicing 40,000+ people are paired with the effort to create a unique and magical experience – all while knowing the build will ultimately be ephemeral: there and gone in but a weekend. 

 

We have done many many events over the life of The Skinny Pancake, from simple vending booths to large scale vending coordination for Grand Point North. We even led festival production for our local food festival Eat by Northeast (2014- 2015) and Big Tiny Love (2018). The nature of this work is that, for folks directly involved in the production, a festival increasingly clouds and ultimately eclipses everything else in the final push. This was most certainly the case for Curveball.

 

Our initiative at Curveball was ambitious. We not only committed to operating and coordinating a pop-up restaurant, beer garden and farmers market, we committed to building the physical infrastructure for the experience we planned to create. 

 

 

To accomplish this ambitious task, we needed a GREAT team of builders and foodservice professionals. And what a team we ended up with: Josiah Jackson of Ironwood Building and Design signed on as foreman. Reclaimed lumber specialist Adam Marsano from Small House Carpentry and his assistant Tom Ladd joined the crew as exceptionally productive carpenters. “Eddie Can Fix It” Grasmeyer joined the team as our resident Macgyver (and boy did Macgyver come in handy). Lee Anderson from the Radio Bean brought in his crew to build a major light installation. Our Marketing Team and I all signed on to help “raise the barn” with site maps, acquisitions and whatever the heck else it would take to get the job done. This motley crew came in on top of the world-class team and resources Phish itself had hired to accomplish the task of manifesting yet another one of their incredible festivals.

 

On Friday, August 10th, this ‘Advanced Production Team’ set off for an adventure of a lifetime. We had 4 commercial scale trailers full of lumber and materials. Every truck was packed with tools. Palettes of deliveries had been sent ahead of us. We had five days scheduled to build our vision which ran smack into the deluge of rain that would eventually become the festival’s undoing. 

 

 

Saturday, August 11th through Wednesday, August 15th was what we call “pillow to pillow work”: 12+ hours a day of physically demanding manual and intellectual labor. To our own surprise, the balance of the team was ideal.  The problem solving was relentless and persistent. Where there were hurdles, the question was ‘how’ not ‘if.’ Where there were metaphoric mountains to move, we had access to literal excavators from the festival producers. Despite the rain one day, the intense heat the next, the mud throughout, we persevered. Despite the stress and anxiety of a rapidly approaching deadline, the whole team kept their cool and there were remarkably few unforced errors.

 

On Tuesday, August 14th, the second wave of our crew departed from Vermont: our summer Festival vending team left for Watkins Glen, driving our beloved School Bus, Sueno, in addition to Samson & Deliah: our freshly painted reefer truck and trailer. 

 

Several hours later we got that devastating call we’d heard before: Sueno was broken down on the side of the road deep in the Adirondacks. For better or worse, it was not due to a major mechanical issue. She had simply run out of gas, but a recovery shot of diesel and ether had not done the trick. So we moved to plan B: we loaded everything and everyone we needed into Samson (our concession trailer) and got the festival team back on track. An hour later, in preparing to leave the bus, our driver thought ‘what the heck, I’ll try to start it one last time…’ Lo and behold, she fired right up. In our efforts to restart her, we had flooded the engine. By waiting a few hours, the problem had fixed itself. Sueno triumphantly drove through the night to Ithaca and safely made her way to Watkins Glen the next day. 

 

We were scheduled to open a small stand for Wednesday and the full operation on Thursday. To our own surprise, we were ahead of schedule. We set up our stand for a noon opening only to learn that the organizers had opted to not open the festival grounds to the public until the next day. “Ok…no big deal” we thought, “we’ll just open tomorrow.” 

 

Wednesday night our build-out was done and it was stunning. We all hung out and just enjoyed the look and feel of it all. We took photos: this would be the only night it was empty before the place was overrun with the happy festival-goers setting up camp right outside the gate. 

 

 

With time on our hands, we added some finishing touches on the buildout Thursday. Drink holders for cold beer were made from wood cut-offs and installed by our hammocks. Hay bales were moved around as farmers loaded in. We hosted an all staff orientation. The festival organizers were sending more fun stuff our way: magically colored piano suddenly appeared. A friendly and talented lighting designer, Jason “Liggy” Liggett volunteered to install technicolor lighting inside of Sueno to luminate her all night. It was all coming together better than we could have ever hoped. The festival organizers lauded the build-out as remarkable. We were proud of our creation and eager and ready to open the next day.  

 

 

It was Thursday afternoon, August 16th. Gates were expected to open at 2pm. Those who have been following the saga know what happens next. Confusing delay after confusing delay. Rumors started to swirl and were laughed off as absurd. 

 

Around 4pm, a member of the racetrack’s concessions team came through, telling us the gates would not open until Friday and feverishly saying he needed our cash start bank (we were working with the racetrack on our banking needs). The request confused me. What was going on? 

 

Soon enough, however, this unfortunate information was confirmed by someone in the know. I saw the text myself: EVENT CANCELLED. Stunned. Alone with this knowledge, I looked around. Dozens of people industriously and excitedly working immediately around me, preparing for a deluge of festival goers: members of our team, the greater Phish organization, numerous other subcontractors. I walked past our build team who were proudly and happily laying in the hammocks we had installed. I grabbed two beers, one in hand, one went to my pocket. Folks took notice and asked “what’s up with that?” I said I needed to take a walk, mumbling that we were not opening until tomorrow. As I left, our amazing festival manager approached me asking if she should up her food order with the distributor for the next day, fretting she had under-ordered. I asked her to hold off. 

 

For half an hour, I wandered around a beautiful festival ground that would never be activated. Happy vendors were all ready to go. Art installations were all completed. Production vehicles and golf carts continued to zoom back and forth. 

 

 

I called our point person at Phish. The announcement would go out at 5:30pm.

 

At 5:15, we were given permission to tell our team. We gathered everyone together. “Attitude is everything” is easy when you’re winning. But it’s when the chips are down that it matters most. When we had to build 20 pergolas in the rain on Sunday, attitude was everything. When the bus broke down, attitude was everything. When a festival that could move mountains with an army of forklifts, pneumatic hammers and cranes was brought down by an outbreak of a single microorganism, E. Coli, it also threatened to lay waste to our single biggest initiative of 2018 and arguably our most prominent branding opportunity in the history of The Skinny Pancake. Attitude was still everything.

 

The E. Coli may have stopped the festival, but it didn’t lay waste to our creation. On the night of Thursday, August 16th, when we should have been enjoying a full room of festival goers and seeing our months long effort realized, we instead hosted a bittersweet and beautiful party in our pop-up creation for the few hundred organizers, artists and friends still onsite. Some we knew before the festival, others we just met, many we’ll likely never encounter again. The rug had just been pulled out from under us all, creating a heartfelt camaraderie in this strange, post-festival apocalyptic moment. The next day, we knew it would all be unwound and broken down. But for that one passing evening, we activated this beautiful space that our proud community had created. We offered up food and drink from the bar and order counter free of charge. Donations and tips flowed generously from partygoers to the pockets of our staff who missed out on a lucrative weekend of tips from hungry and thirsty festival attendees.

 

 

The next morning, we fed anyone who needed a good morning breakfast and coffee. And then we started to break it all down. 

 

The mix of emotions and cognitive dissonance had been stunning. For those of us that shared this experience, it will be a milestone in life. It was set to be a career highlight: we absolutely exhausted ourselves doing some of the best work we’d ever done. We were proud and excited to see it activated. The feedback from these storied festival organizers was overwhelmingly and positive. And yet it was all a western mandala: this installation would be torn down before ever being seen by the tens of thousands of Phish fans who were supposed to enjoy it. 

 

 

Speaking for everyone on our team, it was a privilege and a pleasure to be given this opportunity. We are deeply grateful to Phish, their entire organization, their unbelievably competent Vending Coordinator, Watkins Glen and their concessions team. Much press has gone out about Curveball’s cancellation. Where the focus should be, and where it will be for anybody who has ever gone to a Phish festival, is that no one band could pull off what Phish alone can do. The one-band festival is a remarkable feat, and they do it with class and a collaborative and supportive attitude toward everybody there helping make it happen. 

 

The Skinny Pancake’s installation at Curveball was not the end of something failed. It represents a chapter in an exciting and ambitious career-long adventure to create simple fun and positive social impact. I don’t know a single person involved who didn’t leave with a conviction to do it again and do it better in the future. Whenever that is, wherever it is, whatever you do, take care of your shoes.

 

Thank you to everyone who joined us in this grand adventure. 

 

A Decade of Crepes in the Capitol City

Dear Montpelier,

 

Benjy here. Howdy!

 

Well, we’ve been open and operating in Montpelier for TEN years now. Man, that’s a lot of life. For those of you who have been in the community for more than a decade (a lot of you!), you’ll recall that we took the space over from Ben & Jerry’s right near the height of ‘The Great Recession’ of the late 2000s. We loved the symbolism of inheriting the space from the iconic Vermont business, and one we so admired and continue to for their trailblazing approach to doing business sustainably. The fact that “The Montpelier Mini Skinny” was roughly the size of an oversized postage stamp helped us more easily stomach the risk on a second location. We funneled every penny we had saved from the OG Skinny on the Burlington Waterfront into a self-funded opening. Keep in mind, the 2009 Waterfront Skinny was roughly 1/3rd the size it is now, and at that time, we thought that was HUGE.

 

Ten years ago…we had a President that inspired hope. The economy seemed to have nowhere to go but up for everyone, ObamaCare was in the works, 350.org and the environmental efforts of Bill McKibben were just getting going, the legendary Langdon Street Cafe was in its hay-day. A lot has changed in the world since then.

 

But oh, Montpelier: you’re still standing strong. I know you know you’re a special town, Montpelier. You have huge pride in place, powerful integrity and impressive will and conviction towards your values around progressive politics, the arts, local food and weirdness: ‘Montpeculiar!’ they say. While a lot of towns like to rally around a “Keep _____ Weird” mantra, Montpelier has never really had to do that, because that’s just the way it’s naturally been. A lot of people outside of Vermont like to throw out stats that Montpelier is the smallest US capital and the only one without a Mcdonalds. Maybe that’s weird to some people. To us, that’s just awesome.

 

So where’s it all going now? Well…we make crepes, we don’t read crystal balls…but here’s what we know: Everyone needs to do their part and thankfully we have the backbone of remarkable towns like Montpelier reminding us that’s it is possible to build a community full of vibrant culture and mutual respect. Wearing our ‘socially responsible capitalist hat’, though, we want to remind everyone that you can protest with action as well as vote with your dollars. Spend your money wisely to empower the enterprises committed to making the world a better place…that’s what we try to do as a business every damned day…and our conviction has only grown as we have matured and witnessed the world around us not going in the direction our youthful selves just about took for granted would naturally happen.

 

As it turns out, our Montpelier Skinny has been a sleeper hit this whole time: we are laying plans to combat the large agri-food system on the frontlines of foodservice by hopefully expanding into the rest of New England with our little location in the Capital City as the model we’re basing our future locations on…

 

Montpelier: you’ve been so kind to us. Thank you for welcoming us into your community and supporting us so we could thrive here. We’re super grateful and swear again that we’re going to pay it forward and help pave the way for a better world…that better world that your city’s community has been helping build since before we got here.

 

So, please, join us as we embark on another 10 years by celebrating the 10 before us this Saturday, June 22nd ALL DAY with beer and food specials and live music all day.

 

Sincerely,

 

-Benjy

 

PS: I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a deep digital bow of respect and gratitude to our leadership in Montpelier over the past decade: Jeremy Silansky, who opened the location and led it with us for several years, Sayer Dwinell-Yardley who worked with The Skinny starting as a dishwasher in Montpelier and moving onto KM, AGM and then to The Chubby Muffin in Burlington for many years. David Heath who took over as GM for 2 years and refreshed the space tremendously before returning to Los Angeles…and the current bedrock of reliability, General Manager Nate Morris alongside his brother, Kitchen Manager Chris Morris alongside all the line level employees without whom we never could have existed. THANK YOU, ONE AND ALL.

Earth Day 2019: 10% For The Planet

Spoiler Alert: the Earth needs our help.

Since 2012, the Skinny has been a member of 1% for the Planet, pledging 1% of revenues from participating locations to environmental non-profits. But, for Earth Day this year, we decided our 1% just wasn’t enough.

We think Earth Day should be every day. While we spend all 365 days a year on our planet, we only give one of them to the Earth by name. So, this year we want to make it count. On Monday, April 22nd, in celebration of Earth Day, we’ll be donating 10% of sales across Pancakia (*except our BTV Airport locations) to our friends at 1% For the Planet who are leading a movement to increase environmental giving. Please, join us by helping our 1% go a little further this year.

Want to do more? Support other 1% For the Planet businesses year round or consider joining as an individual member.

The Skinny Pancake Announces Newest Location!

For Immediate Release

April 1st, 2019

 

The Skinny Pancake Announces New Location on the Moon.

 

Lunesta Galaxy, Moon – The Skinny Pancake will be opening a new 30,000 square foot location in the heart of the Lunesta Villiage on the Moon. With a mission of building a healthier, safer and more delicious foodshed while creating everyday enjoyment that is fun and affordable, The Skinny Pancake is thrilled to be leading the pack in developing the lunar food system. 

 

Owner Benjy Adler says, “We’ve spent a few weekends on the moon scouting potential opportunities, and quickly learned Vermont and the Moon are not so different. From the small-town community vibe to the rolling hills of the landscape – the Earth’s Moon truly is the Vermont of the Milky Way Galaxy.” 

 

The new Skinny Pancake will open alongside a mixed-use development project anchored by Tesla’s SpaceX project. “The Skinny Pancake is the exact sort of tenant we were hoping to attract as we continue to advance our space tourism industry,” says SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

 

“We are thrilled to continue our commitment to community engagement in an area with literally endless potential. We hope to become a thread in the fabric of the community here on the Moon,” Mr. Adler says.

 

“You think urban farmers are cool? You should check out these lunar farmers. They’re incredible,” Adler continues.

 

The Skinny Pancake on the Moon will open in Winter of 2021 and will serve many of the offerings of their existing locations, with a zero-gravity spin. The location will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

 

 

Festi Staff

The Skinny Pancake is looking for energetic, hard-working, music-loving folks to join our summer fair & festival tour! We travel around the Northeast in our whimsical bright blue school bus, ‘Sueno,’ to overnight music & art festivals such as Quechee Balloon Festival, Greyfox Bluegrass Festival, and Green River Festival, as well as local single-day events including the Addison County Fair & Field Days, Shelburne Museum Concerts on the Green, Grand Point North, Tumbledown and more.

 

This is NOT a 9-5 job! This is an adventure. We head out on the road for a week at a time, sleep & camp in a tent, and live the festi lifestyle. (No gear? We can help with that.) We set up & take down a mobile kitchen each week, work outdoors, and crank out sweet & savory crepes with a smile.

 

The ideal candidate is honest, efficient, a self starter & tough enough for some healthy hard work. You must be able to lift 50 lbs and a valid driver’s license is preferred! We encourage a fun and friendly work environment that is also healthy and safe, promotes sustainable practices, and represents the Skinny Pancake at all times.

 

Work begins mid-May through October 1st. Weekends are a must!

 

If this sounds like a culture and healthy challenge you’d like to take part in, email us with a cover letter and resume to schedule an interview! Apply below!

 

Apply Here

 

At The Skinny Pancake, we offer a supportive and professional work environment. We care about our employees and strive to help them live happy, balanced lives. We provide competitive pay, free meals, health insurance contribution, 401K, access to voluntary benefits, and opportunity for growth.

The Skinny Pancake is committed to providing equal opportunity in all of our employment practices and does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or veteran status.

FREE Coffee and 50% Off Food For Federal Workers Affected By the Government Shutdown

With a government shutdown and all, our friends at the TSA, FAA, USDA and The National Weather Service have still been showing up to work at the Burlington International Airport to keep us all traveling safe and sound. Beginning today, we’ll be supporting these federal workers by offering FREE coffee and 50% off food to all federal employees showing up to work at Burlington International Airport.

This offer will continue until the government re-opens.