Dainty Maid building to become an incubation food hall under the Haunt of Hounds operation
When Ben Miller purchased the beloved Dainty Maid building in 2019, he had a vision.
The former businessman-turned-entrepreneur saw the 3,600-square-foot building as a place for entrepreneurs to try out new concepts for an eager customer-base who are excited to sample something new. He wanted it to become a space that would ultimately foster local talent and contribute to the advancement of the South Bend community.
"I want to be a good neighbor, but I think South Bend needs and deserves more,” Miller told The Tribune nearly three years ago. “I think everybody does a good job, but this still has a small town attitude and we need some fun. We need some big city events and things in here because that’s what’s changing. I’m hoping that we can make the 200 block (of Michigan Street) the experiential block. Every city has that place where people go, and we want people to come here for that.”
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COVID-related protocols initially dampened that vision, limiting communal spaces and making everything as separated as possible in order to limit the spread of the novel virus.
In time, success still came to the building. Breakfast and lunch restaurant The Early Bird Eatery moved in in early 2021 and filled the main portion of the building. Bakery Pink Lemonade Pastries filled a smaller space, selling delicate baked goods. But at nighttime, the space would be empty as plans to fill the multi-kitchen space with a dinner vendor never came to fruition.
Now, as The Early Bird Eatery grew and moved into its own space just down the street, Miller has tapped restaurant operators The Haunt of Hounds to oversee operations of what will become the Dainty Maid Food Hall and help his original vision become realization.
"They are a perfect match for why we did the building the way we did," Miller said on Thursday. "Their purpose and vision of the community aligns with mine and they execute it very well. They're a very collaborative group, so they've shown they work well with other chefs and other concepts."
Who are the Haunt of Hounds?
The group — comprised of Austin Cabello, Alain Helfrich, Jordan Mullins and Tim Tinker — are behind Southern-contemporary restaurant Fatbird, pizza restaurant Propaganda Pizza and a new coming-soon barbecue restaurant in Dowagiac called Oak and Ash BBQ.
And with more than 60 years of combined experience working in the restaurant industry, they understand how hard it can be to get a foot in the door, pay for overhead costs and deal with the logistics of everyday operations.
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For them, the opportunity to expand their operations and to help curate another generation of talent in South Bend by overseeing Dainty Maid was a deal too good to pass up.
"It's a good opportunity from the perspective of growing our group as well as a really good opportunity for us to give South Bend what I think it needs, what we think it needs," said Helfrich, who serves as the chef of the group. "(It) expands our ultimate goal as a hospitality team."
Inspired by Miller's original idea of creating a collaborative space, the restaurant operators envision about four or five rotating food vendors who can fit into what will ultimately be a food hall.
What will a food hall look like?
Similar to a food court at the mall, customers will have the flexibility to chose different foods from different businesses depending on what they'd like to eat. But unlike a food court, instead of walking up to each booth individually, customers will merely have to sit down, scan a QR code to see what's available to order from whom that day and order accordingly. A server will then deliver the food directly to the table once it's ready. Operators say they plan to accommodate those who cannot use a QR code by providing an iPad or menus to use.
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"The server isn't there to take your order, but to explain to you how we're going to go through this process and ask what is the experience you're looking for and how can I help facilitate that experience for you as a guest," Tim Tinker explained. "The service experience is going to be more guiding you to the direction you want to go within the food hall establishment."
On the logistics side, Haunt of Hounds will handle all of the front-of-house and operations logistics, such as providing servers, dishwashers, tables and POS systems so the small restaurant owners need to focus only on the food that they are producing. The idea is that once a business has been able to establish itself, it will move on to a more permanent solution in the future.
"Hopefully, you have a great meal from every single vendor that comes in here, that's the goal," Tinker said. "And then we have 10 new restaurants over the next five years. Wouldn't that be great?"
In addition to fostering multiple tenants, the group will open their own breakfast concept called The Breakfast Club to serve an an anchor tenant in that it will remain as a constant to help sustain the concept. Helfrich described the menu as global with influences from around the world, such as Asian, Greek and Jewish cultures. One thing that won't be on the menu is eggs Benedict.
"For me, the food hall kind of has that vibe of everyone getting together and doing their own thing. And because it's the anchor, I want (The Breakfast Club) to feel like there's multiple options on that menu as well," he said. "You can get eggs Benedict at all seven (nearby breakfast restaurants) that are within walking distance, so lets do something different."
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In addition to The Breakfast Club, operators also plan to bring in coffee from A Roaster Called Revenant, co-owned by Tyler Sutch and Kel Stombaugh, formerly of Kodachrome Coffee (previously known as Zen Cafe). And at night, a full service bar called Hall Pass will be overseen by Haunt of Hounds beverage director Dani Smith, formerly of The Exchange Whiskey Bar. Pink Lemonade Pastries also will remain operational and part of the concept.
"We view (Revenant and Hall Pass) as benefits to anyone else who comes in," Helfrich said. "I want coffee to be here all the time and I want a bar to be here all the time, not only to help with ticket sales but also the environment in general."
The Haunt of Hounds group hopes to open the new concept by June 1. For now, Pink Lemonade will remain open, and during April, operators will focus on construction updates in changing the space to create a coffee bar and benches for more seating. Come May, they hope to host as many pop-ups as they can, inviting the community in to get a taste of what's just on the horizon and to give themselves an idea of what to expect. Those interested in becoming vendors or operating a pop-up can contact Haunt of Hounds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It's about nurturing the community," Helfrich said. "… Our hope is, in year five, there are another five new restaurants to increase the dining in downtown South Bend or in the East Bank or wherever they find a building where they can fit in. So, that for me, is one of the most important things from a philosophical perspective is that we are going to grow the community of South Bend in the same way that other places have before us."
Contact Mary Shown at 574-235-6244 and email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @maryshownSBT and @marketbasketSBT.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Haunt of Hounds to open incubation food hall in Dainty Maid building