A loan helps a Cranbrook restaurateur fulfill vision to support local
The Mushroom Pappardelle entrée boasts locally grown and foraged mushrooms. The salads feature crisp greens grown nearby. Located in Cranbrook’s historic Mount Baker Hotel, the restaurant Soulfood lives the vision of “farm to table” eating—a vision new owner Danielle Eaton continues to uphold with pride.
“It feels really good knowing we are supporting local suppliers,” she says, noting over 40 food producers provide items like eggs, milk, bread, beef, beer, wine and cherries. “It’s really cool how many things we can source locally.”
The restaurant first opened in 2016, and Eaton has always admired its efforts to source locally. As the owner of Brook Public Relations, she’d worked with the former owners on marketing and business development. Later, they decided to sell, and in March 2020 Eaton became the owner herself.
Thinking outside the box
To realize the purchase, Eaton’s first hurdle was to find financing. She discovered the Trust’s Impact Investment Fund, which supports businesses and social enterprises through loans where the projects will benefit communities in an impactful way. In Soulfood’s case, some of these impacts were increasing business with local food producers and creating employment.
Then came the pandemic. With the deal set to close March 31, 2020, Eaton had to decide if purchasing the restaurant was worth the risk—there was no way of knowing when it could open.
But Eaton thought: “There must be a model that will work.”
Indeed, she soon found that model and went ahead with the purchase. Suddenly, many people—from those in self-isolation to health care workers—needed convenient meals delivered to their doors. Alongside staff members Teresa Day and Jenny Crown, Eaton started making and delivering up to 1,000 frozen meals per week.
Fortunately, the restaurant was able to open again for dining in June 2020, and Eaton says the support from the community “has just been amazing.”
Change for the better
Previously a part-time barista, and then a full-time prep cook earlier in the pandemic, Teresa Day is now managing the barista station five days a week. She says, “It’s so easy to wear a smile on your face when you are surrounded by solid people, serving the freshest farm-to-table dishes and having daily interactions with customers whose names and stories you get know and love.”
Another major change was the introduction of Aaron Day—a chef with over 20 years’ fine dining and resort experience and Teresa’s husband—as Soulfood’s Executive Chef. He’s also devoted to the restaurant’s farm-to-table concept. “It’s great to actually see and talk to purveyors in person on a weekly basis,” he says.
These are just two of the people the restaurant employs. In fact, Eaton says, “We’ve grown. When I approached the Trust with my business plan, we wanted to employ 14 people. We’re now employing 25.”
Things look different from the outside, too. Newly painted, royal blue doors open onto Baker Street. A white, eight-foot Soulfood logo rises on the east-facing, red brick wall. The look and the restaurant’s draw add to downtown Cranbrook’s growing vibrancy.
Eaton and Chef Day are also evolving the menu. “He has the freedom to cook whatever he wants,” she says, “as long as it’s local, delicious and beautiful.”
“We’re calling this Soulfood 2.0,” she says. “Aaron and I are already discussing 3.0. We live in an area of incredible opportunity and have dreams to expand this presentation of local food into something much bigger.”