Just as Babas on Cannon co-owner Edward Crouse was on the hunt for a second location, goat.sheep.cow. co-owner Trudi Wagner was ready to reopen the wine and specialty goods side of her 804 Meeting St. location, but not its cafe.
Fast-forward to this week, and Crouse is prepping the final touches for Babas on Meeting, the restaurant’s second location inside goat.sheep.cow., north, with plans to open in the coming days.
Business has been booming for Babas on Cannon, according to Crouse. And at goat.sheep.cow. on Church Street, sales of specialty items was as good as its ever been during the pandemic, said owner Trudi Wagner.
Crouse’s decision to start looking for a second location started back in spring of this year, with the desire to accommodate both old and new patrons of the European-style cafe.
“Babas [on Cannon] is very small, and we were forced to be in a spot where we couldn’t quite take care of our regulars the way we wanted to,” said Crouse about the decision.
With no reservations and first come, first serve counter service, it was becoming harder for Cannon Street regulars to find a spot and enjoy a cup of coffee, turkey club or espresso martini at any time of the day.
“The guest experience, in my mind, was suffering for them,” Crouse added. “It just broke my heart that folks that had been regulars at Babas forever, even before COVID and powered through, were suffering because of our success.”
Crouse said some regulars were “down” with Babas’ success, and stayed receptive to the 30 minutes-to-an-hour wait, but others were missing the days where they could sit down, relax and chat with the staff.
With the split reaction from customers, Crouse and wife Marie Stitt decided to spring for the second location, based on their mutual “desire to better serve the regulars and locals.”
After spending some time looking in the “NoMo” area off Morrison Drive, things turned out to be much more challenging for the co-owners.
According to Crouse, banks were not interested in helping finance a new bar or restaurant due to COVID-related concerns, but fortunately, word that Crouse was looking spread to the right ears.
After a year of brisk retail business at their Church Street shop, Wagner said she and business partner Patty Floersheimer knew they could continue selling specialty goods. But come spring, they were stuck on what to do with the cozy cafe space at goat.sheep.cow., north, which had been closed since 2020.
“Once Patty and Trudi from goat.sheep.cow heard that we were looking in that neighborhood, they asked if we would be interested in sitting down with them to discuss a kind of partnership in their north location because they had wanted to move on from being restaurant owners,” said Crouse.
“It solved a lot of problems for us,” Crouse added, familiar with creative problem-solving after the pandemic year.
After months of discussion and planning, the partnership fell into place.
“We’ve known them for 10 years, we used to be neighbors,” Wagner told the City Paper. “So I reached out to Edward and said, ‘I have this really crazy idea … What do you think?’ And that kind of got the ball rolling.”
A “collaborative endeavor,” both businesses will share the space. Goat.sheep.cow., north will run the retail portion of the space, while Babas will head up cafe operations.
Goat.sheep.cow’s Church Street store will remain open as normal.
“The compromise of that was good, because it leaves us to do what we specialize in, which is [as a] specialty food retailer, and for him to do his European-style cafe,” Wagner said.
The name, Babas on Meeting, is a similarly logical fit.
Crouse sees the decision to branch out as the right next step for Babas, but didn’t see a dedicated store as sustainable and knew his team “wouldn’t be able to do a better job at retail as Patty and Trudi.”
“It will be kind of two unique businesses operating, with the full experience of both businesses out of the same space,” Crouse said. “The synergy is totally there. A lot of our patrons overlap already and a lot of folks that are patrons of both are ready. It just makes sense.”
The businesses will share the same space, but run independently — the wine on the shelves will differ from the wines offered on the Babas menu. Though Wagner said customers may see some other items may see some crossover between menu and retail shelves a few steps away.
Babas on Meeting will open soon at 804 Meeting St. Hours will be Tues.-Sun., 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.