After renovating and re-opening four apartment complexes in Rochester, Andy and Kari Friederichs are shifting gears to transform an old industrial building into a modern food hall to house a variety of "fresh" culinary choices.

The basic concept is setting up a large building to accommodate a number of local food vendors. Proponents, like the Friederichs, stress that these unique halls are very different creatures from the bland food courts crowded with franchises found in most shopping malls.

The entrepreneurial couple purchased a forgotten, 67-year-old industrial building at 1232 Third Ave. SE from Seneca Foods with the idea of transforming the dirty, beige stone building into a charming addition to the city.

"We think Rochester could really enjoy something like this," Kari Friederichs said.

Food halls are sort of an evolution of the food trucks trend. They provide a way for local, aspiring chefs to bring their unique fare to the public without investing in a standalone restaurant.

Revival in Chicago and the Packing District in Anaheim, Calif. are popular examples that have found success. The Minneapolis' North Loop is slated to have its own food hall — Graze Provisions + Libations — open within a few weeks.

While it's early in the Rochester project, the plan is to transform the building into a welcoming space called The Workshop in hopes of attracting both local food vendors and customers. A sign out front shows what the future food hall might look like.

Food hall

An industrial building built in 1952 is being turned into a food hall by Andy and Kari Friederichs.

Early plans are to create space for eight food vendors with a central bar, a large patio/covered porch area and an old-school barber shop. The Chatfield couple hopes to start submitting site plans to the city soon.

"When we go out in Rochester, we ask ourselves, 'What would we like to see here?' When we travel, these are the types of places we go," said Andy Friederichs. "We'd love to provide an opportunity for people with a goal and dream. When people ask, 'Hey, where are we going to eat?,' we want the answer to be 'Let's go the Workshop, there's something for everybody there.'"

The estimate it could take at least a year to clean and upgrade the musty building as well as add a 3,000-square-foot storage area for the food vendors.

Kari Friederichs said they intend to be selective about the vendors with an emphasize on local, "artisan" offerings. That could include things like a bakery, a taco stand or a barbecue place. Each vendor will be the only of its kind in The Workshop to provide variety for customers and limit direct vendor competition.

The food vendors will all be tenants, but the bar and barber shop will run by the family with Andy Friederichs serving as the lead barber in the planned six chair shop.

While this is their first venture into the hospitality industry, buying and renovating an old property fits the Friederichs business model. In the past three years, they have upgraded and re-opened four outdated Rochester apartment buildings.

"We see it as this is another old building that won't be torn down," said Kari Friederichs of their "repurposing" philosophy.

And given the traffic on Third Avenue and Olmsted County's hope to turn the empty Seneca complex into a future transportation hub, the location of The Workshop looks promising.

In the end, the couple is simply looking to create a unique and profitable business that adds something new to the Med City's landscape.

"We're trying to provide something that's a win-win for everybody," said Andy Friederichs.

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