Sassafras converts space to grocery/food retail

Within a year of opening, Sassafras Coastal Kitchen’s owner Scott Brownlee is going his eatery a gourmet market makeover. Williscraft – Photo

By Mike Williscraft

Scott Brownlee is proof positive that necessity is the mother of invention.

COVID-19 impacts bringing on the lockdown and ban of in-restaurant dining has necessitated some sort of invention to enable Brownlee’s brand new business to survive – somehow.

Sassafras Coastal Kitchen & Bar was scheduled to open in March of 2020 – timed, unfortunately, with the first COVID wave.

A delayed opening and quick reset to adjust the offering and add a major outdoor patio in the rear parking area helped limit that initial impact.

Then, just as the market was returning, added restrictions and the eventual lockdown put the fledgling operation in serious jeopardy.

“We had to make a change and the way to do that was to get into some grocery products,” said Brownlee, who has 30-plus years or restaurant experience, 20-plus as an owner.

“It will be more of a bodega-style store with signature Sassafras menu items and other prepared food as well as fresh produce and other items,” said Brownlee, noting the restaurant will still be offering its take-out menu.

“We had to do something else to create enough revenue to survive.”

To accommodate the change, Brownlee has redone half of his restaurant seating space with hot and cold display cases as well as a beverage cooler.

“We’ll have prepared items people can drop in and pick up, new items daily,” said Brownlee.

With these new offerings, Brownlee is looking to source as much product locally as possible.

“It will be a gourmet-level market,” said Brownlee.

“Whether it is meat or vegetables, I want all of it to be local. That is key.”

Among the items to be offered, Brownlee noted:

• fresh meat
• seafood, with regular lobster coming in
• vegetables
• prepared salads
• hot & prepared meals
• fresh-made breads
• A variety of cheeses

Brownlee said the market will be fully read and operational in mid-January.

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