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Bartertown works to build community through food with new programs, livable wages

New ownership of the plant-based restaurant leaves tipping model, adds program for feeding those in need.
Bartertown burrito

Bartertown burrito /Courtesy of Bartertown

Underwriting support from:

Bartertown /Courtesy of Bartertown

Changes have been brewing at Bartertown Diner, a staple hotspot for the plant-based food community. On March 2, 2016, new owners Thad Cummings and Crystal Lecoy quietly and officially joined the Bartertown team, with a mission of inclusion and sustainability, for both the community and the employees.

Shortly after the change in ownership, Cummings and Lecoy introduced a very giving new business model. Rather than tipping servers customers can now buy a taco or food bowl for a person in need, and the voucher goes up on the “Community Food Board” to be redeemed any time, by anyone who needs it. 

“When people think of need, they often think of the homeless community, when we think of need, it includes everyone. Everyone has a hard day, every one goes through hard times, we want to be there in that time of need” says Cummings.

The Give-a-Taco Take-a-Taco Program, which recently replaced the tipping system at Bartertown, aims to promote a new program for employees by implementing livable wages, and other tangible benefits.

"All employees are paid an hourly livable wage, well above minimum-wage. In addition, we have an employee profit share program that enables employees to take ownership of their roles within the restaurant and the company. The prices on the current menu include employee wages and reflect the change. Typically, increased prices dilute a restaurants customer base. However Thad and I have made a commitment to create an inclusive, affordable space for all. We have made every effort to reflect our mission on our menu, offering free Give-a-Taco, Take-a-Taco program, low budget two buck tacos, $4 flapjacks, and medium budget $11 monster burritos, $12 sandwiches with sides, etc.. We use fresh, local ingredients across the board." says Lecoy  

It is the goal of Lecoy and Cummings for any individual to feel welcome when they walk in the doors of Bartertown. They hope that the space will facilitate conversations between strangers and folks from different walks of life. As part of that goal, they hope to transform part of the diner into an educational community center, a place where the community can gather to learn and share experiences around food, because “everyone has a place at the table.”

Lecoy has been involved in several startup operations over the past few years, helping businesses like Bloom Ferments, Nutcase Vegan Meats, and the Incubator Kitchen at the Downtown Market. Lecoy is passionate about helping businesses get their ideas up and off the ground, and increase both production and awareness for their brands, as well as implement changes in order to make business successful on the back end.

Although Bartertown has been around for the past few years, there will be a few new implementations such as a grab ‘n go deli area, catering, and  preparing to be open on Tuesdays and adding dinner Tuesday - Saturday, in addition to our current hours, 8am-4pm Wednesday-Sunday

"We have more exciting news coming, but we wouldn't want to spill all the cool beans in one story" says Lecoy. Stay tuned for more from Bartertown, located on 6 Jefferson Ave SE.

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