Brad Gillis '08 is hoping to "turn back the clock," at least when it comes to sandwiches. A self-confessed foodie, Brad and longtime friend Ben Friedman have recently opened Homegrown, a sustainable sandwich shop in Seattle, Washington, that serves local and organic meals with "ingredients you can pronounce." Opening in late March, Homegrown was a project years in the making. A mutual love for good sandwiches and sustainable agriculture inspired Brad, an environmental studies/geology major at Bowdoin and Ben, a Boston University grad, to discuss the possibility of going into business together, and when senior year rolled around, they were ready to put their plan into action. Appropriately, the two held their first business meeting at Frontier Cafe in Brunswick, where they drew up a business plan and discussed the funding they would need for their venture.
For two recent college grads with no managerial experience, getting a restaurant up and running was no small feat. The toughest row to hoe was figuring out where to purchase each ingredient, which involved many trips to local farms and bakeries and contacting distributors that specialized in local and organic products. Each day, Homegrown receives six or seven separate deliveries. "It's a juggling act," Brad confesses, but says ordering from individual suppliers is crucial to ensuring that each ingredient is of the highest quality and comes from responsible origins. The practice is quickly paying off, and in only a few months of operation, Homegrown has received accolades from several Seattle publications and culinary Web sites. A steady flow of regulars enjoys wild crab cakes, local bacon, and avocado on a locally baked brioche roll (Brad's favorite) and blackened cod sandwiches with vegetable fries. Homegrown keeps the menu constantly changing to reflect seasonal ingredients, although some favorites remain on the list year-round. A demand for take-out orders and catering has prompted Brad to begin expanding the basement into a full kitchen. The restaurant already employs 15 part-time employees in addition to a fulltime executive chef. "It's definitely turned into a bigger operation than we thought it would," says Brad.
But despite the long hours (Homegrown is open seven days a week) seeing their plan come to fruition has been an exciting experience for the two young entrepreneurs. "Sometimes we look at each other and say 'is this really happening?'" says Brad. Homegrown’s location on the famously bohemian Fremont Avenue has also provided both Brad and Ben, who are Seattle natives, with an opportunity to reach out to a new part of their city. "Getting to know the community has been really rewarding," Brad says. "We love serving food to people."
Visit Homegrown online: www.eathomegrown.com
Posted November 18, 2009