For business owners Kate Chomko and Jennifer Kaye, yesterday’s soft launch marked the end of a year filled with red tape that had delayed the opening of Downtown & Vine’s Harvest Bar and About a Bite Bakery, colocated on K Street.
“I’m looking forward to being in front of my customers after three years of working in a kitchen, mostly by myself,” says Kaye, who was previously creating bite-sized cookies, artisan chocolates and other sweets for About a Bite Bakery at a commercial kitchen in Gold River.
The pair signed the lease in August 2014 and submitted plans to the city in November. After paying for expedited review, they expected their building plan to be approved in three weeks. About five months later, they received approval to start construction. In all, multiple changes added about $75,000 to the initial build-out estimate, and the grand opening was delayed six months.
For Napa veteran Chomko, her new Harvest Bar will offer healthy grab-and-go breakfast and lunch items as well as a juice bar. She plans to grow her own wheat grass, and she’s building relationships with local farmers to ensure her venture is farm-to-fork friendly. An event room with soundproof double doors leads into Downtown & Vine, “So I can host events with Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other,” Chomko says with a smile.
Chomko and Kaye also plan to collaborate on events and tastings, such as chocolate and wine pairings.
“The beauty of this partnership is our customers get to have it all, and I don’t have to do the things I don’t want to do,” Kaye says. “Somebody can come in, grab a fresh sandwich or a salad and then pick up a little something for dessert.”
Kaye met her new business partner two years ago when she served Chomko tiny treats at an industry gathering. After one bite, Chomko decided to offer the desserts at her Downtown & Vine restaurant.
The two women have much in common. Each left other careers to pursue a passion for good food. While Chomko built her wine bar into an event venue for legislators and lobbyists, the lack of a vented commercial kitchen prevented her from offering a complete menu. About a Bite had a commercial kitchen, but Kaye yearned for a place to serve customers face-to-face.
The next step seemed logical: Share a commercial kitchen and retail space. So Chomko decided to “double down on K Street” by securing the vacant space next door to her existing restaurant.
After finally cutting through the red tape, the women are now eager to expand their businesses in a prime location near conventioneers, Capitol visitors, theatergoers and the daily crush of downtown office workers.
“I love this business because of the relationships I’ve made with regular customers, purveyors, vendors and wineries,” Chomko says. “Expanding the business just brings more opportunities to build new relationships.”