While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many local projects, it has not halted the development of Rochester’s first modern food hall.
Andy and Kari Friederichs havepushed ahead with transforming a forgotten industrial building from the 1930s at 1232 Third Ave. SE into a classic-style food hall, setting with at least six food vendors, a bar and an old-school men’s barbershop under the same roof. The complex will be called The Workshop.
The building, across the street from Rochester’s recently closed vegetable canning plant, was used by Libby’s and Seneca Foods for decades. The couple is is giving the worn concrete block structure an extreme makeover to become a modern food hall.
The basic concept is to accommodate a number of local fresh food vendors under one roof. Proponents, like the Friederichses, stress that these unique halls are very different creatures from the shopping malll food courts crowded with franchises.
“We’re still moving forward as planned. We still hope to be ready to open in fall, probably October or November,” said Kari Friederichs.
While this is their first venture into the hospitality industry, buying and renovating an old property fits their usual business plan. In the past three years, they have upgraded and re-opened four outdated Rochester apartment buildings.
They haven’t locked down specific vendors yet, but the Frieriches say several people have inquired about a spot and conversations are currently happening.
Meanwhile, they are working on the construction of a 3,000-square-foot addition to the back of the building for vendors to use as kitchen space.
Two pieces of the overall vision, the bar and the barbershop, are also moving ahead.
The bar area will be located in the center spot on a raised area that will feature a hardwood floor in contrast to concrete floor in the general seating area.
Kari Friederichs’ vision for the bar features lots of wood and brass to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the early 1900s with modern comforts. And it’s possible that the bar will also have a moniker that will invoke the past.
“We’re still playing with ideas for a bar name. We’re not sure what we’re going to do yet, but a name would probably have a nod to the building’s history,” she said.
Andy Friederich, who is a master barber, is mapping out his six-chair barber shop, which will have its own, separate space.
“It will be a traditional barber shop geared toward men and boys,” he said. “It will be all walk-in, all the time.
He’s putting together a team of like-minded barbers.
Of course, all of their plans are based on the idea that area people will be gathering in groups in the fall. While that’s not as safe of a business plan as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still confident.
Following safety guidelines, the couple believes their original vision of The Workshop being a community social hub will eventually become a reality.
“We hope things will shake out. We’re optimistic,” said Andy Friederich. “People need to get together. People just need to be around each other.”
Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in Heard on the Street. Send tips to email@example.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger. You can call him at 507-285-7798.