The Coastal Journal: Feeding young minds: New Beet Market serves local food with a side of education

BRUNSWICK — New Beet Market, the latest business to open at Brunswick Landing, looks like your typical breakfast and lunch spot.

Located at 25 Burbank Avenue in the building that formerly housed Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe, the market meets all your breakfast and lunch needs: Sandwiches made to order, coffee, baked goods, soups, chowders, salads, muffins, and more.

Every item on the menu is sourced locally, pulling from dozens of local farms, coffee roasters, and businesses.

But what makes New Beet Market different from any other restaurant in the area is the “low-profit” L3C model, that ties New Beet’s profits to the benefit of nonprofit organizations

Partnering with Seeds of Independence, a program devoted to ensuring at-risk youth are independent and productive members of their communities, and Harpswell Coastal Academy, one of the first charter schools in Maine, New Beet Market is putting students of both organizations to work.

The goal, said managing partner Jamie Pacheco, is to give kids the opportunity to learn real-life work skills outside of a classroom.

“They’ll learn how to show up on time; they’ll know how to work as part of a team,” she said.

New Beet Market had a soft opening earlier in March, and an official grand opening on March 21.

Pacheco was the primary motivation behind the delay in publicizing the new restaurant, as she and her partner Nate Wildes wanted to make sure staff was ready for regular business. Since many of them are students new to the industy, ensuring that the model can offer consistent prompt service was important.

“Most people only give a restaurant one shot; we wanted to make sure we don’t lose people early,” said Pacheco.

The grand opening, as luck would have it, coincided with an early spring snow storm.

While the storm meant that none of the student workers got to attend, a number of local business leaders and residents braved the roads to stop by for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The staff shortage didn’t affect service. In addition to student workers, a number of full-time employees have also been hired.

Safe space

Many of the employees at New Beet Market come from Seeds of Independence, a program located across the quad that specializes in giving kids from non-traditional or troubled backgrounds a safe place to learn and grow.

Founder Thomas Wright, who owns New Beet’s building, had a vision of creating an interconnected campus at Brunswick Landing that would give kids with uncertain lives at home a place to feel safe.

To that end, Wright has already moved a long way towards creating an environment in which kids can thrive.

The recent addition of the Bath Area Family YM-CA’s new facility nearby has brought an additional element that helps meet the phyiscal needs of students in the program.

The market meshes perfectly with his goal, Wright said. Seeds of Independence had intended to do something with the building that was similar to Pacheco’s vision.

Students will be able to pick up skills that can be applied directly to employment in the future, such as customer service, food service, or even learning how to cook in the kitchen with head chef Michael Allen.

Being able to cook healthy, sustainable meals is a life skill that many of the kids wouldn’t have access to without a place like New Beet.

Allen said he jumped at the chance to both cook healthy meals of his own design and teach kids how to create something on their own.

“I’ve been wanting to be in this position for so long,” he said. “I definitely jumped on it.”

School-to-table

The idea of having students working alongside employees to learn skills while also getting a healthy lunch of their own isn’t entirely new.

Harpswell Coastal Academy had a similar collaboration with SchoolHouse Cafe, which uses profits to provide food for kids at the school.

“It’s part of HCA’s DNA,” said John D’Anieri, head of Harpswell Coastal Academy.

The charter school, founded in 2013, has been trying to forge a new system of education. It was among the first charter schools in the state, offering free public education.

Focusing on “rigorous, personalized, project-based education,” the school’s philosophy meshes well with the concepts at New Beet.

The goal is to find the intersection between education, nonprofit, and business. New Beet is, quite literally, that intersection.

“It enables folks that don’t have access to capital to take advantage of these opportunities,” said D’Anieri of the model. “There are all these models out there, but I don’t know of anything that aligns with what we’re doing.”

New Beet provides lunches for Harpswell Coastal Academy students, who help maintain garden plots located on the premises, which will produce food for use in the restaurant. Older students also work in the restaurant.

Among those present at the grand opening were a number of local business and community leaders.

“This is just a great example of truly caring about your community,” said Debora King, executive director of Brunswick Downtown Association. “It’s really something people can embrace.”

The cafe is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. cchase@coastaljournal.com

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