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.