The Grocer’s Table Brightens up Wayzata
A large community table was repurposed as a display space for local products due to the need for social distancing. It still may make a comeback later on.
A lesser concept might have been singled out just for its gutsy opening in the midst of a pandemic. But Lindsey Pohlad’s The Grocer’s Table in downtown Wayzata, may be the perfect retail panacea for the times: fast-casual “elevated classics” cuisine; a wine and coffee bar; a grocery store for a carefully curated cache of packaged food, drinks and culinary gifts, some local, some from faraway small-batch producers; indoor and outdoor seating; takeout; delivery; and family-style picnics for the boating crowd heading for a day out on Lake Minnetonka, just across the street. There’s also an ice cream cart in the works.
One of the downsides of opening during a pandemic—and trust us, there are many—is not being able to celebrate the public grand opening with family and friends because of the state-mandated limits on the number of people allowed inside.
But devoted husbands sometimes can find ways to circumvent even the governor. At 7:15 a.m. on the day she finally was able to open in early June, Pohlad walked outside to horns honking and a cheering crowd of 60 of her closest friends and family in the parking lot, some in workout gear, some still in their PJs. “I hadn’t seen those people in months,” she says, still touched by it.
Lindsey Pohlad waited 10 years to make her dream come true: An upscale magical place for foodies in Wayzata.
And maybe it was just as well she didn’t make room for all those friends and family, because once she opened there has been a steady stream of customers vying for takeout and patio seating. Her inspiration was derived from NYC retail/restaurants and trips to California’s Napa Valley. The multi-faceted concept is richly layered, and “hits on all cylinders: smells, taste, visuals, and I like the idea of prepared foods that felt like home cooking,” she explains.
The concept adapted to the new normal and safety guidelines before opening by shifting the room’s focal point, a large community dining table in the center of the store, to display retail merchandise from Pohlad’s collection of her favorite cookbooks to specialty foods and cookware to stylish aprons from BA Craftmade Aprons. “Kate (Meier) and I designed the aprons together and she made our masks,” Pohlad says, adding, “We’ve become good friends (a comment we've heard from everyone who works with Meier).”
The banquettes that were ordered weren’t installed; instead coolers were added to the dining space to shift the emphasis to takeaway.
A former New Yorker, Pohlad served as the national director of foodservice sales for Talenti Gelato, before quitting to stay home for 10 years to raise her sons, now 5, 7 and 10. After having her first child, she attended the Arts Institute's culinary program. After the family moved to Wayzata, she started working on her dream with Shea as the designer and Pat Weber of Mise en Place consulting. She and her husband, Tom, self-funded.
The lease had been in the works for four years, and Pohlad said they were on target to open on April 3. Since she didn’t want to introduce her new concept with takeout only, “we were sitting here with an empty store front,” she says, sighing. The chef and GM had been working since February, so they kept them on since they hadn’t worked long enough to qualify for unemployment. “We now have 40-45 employees,” she says. “That was a thrill to put people to work.” Finding staff was difficult, but she’s friends with nearby Bellecour’s GM, who introduced her to the extra summer staff they no longer needed.
Double-chocolate chip cookies have been flying out of The Grocer’s Table, and even with a $5 price tag the oversized treats are worth it
Family-style picnic spreads, $5 chocolate chips cookies (using three kinds of flour and two kinds a chocolate) and housemade Bloody Mary mix are flying off the shelves, she says.
The city allowed her to wrap the back patio around the sidewalk to the front, and Pohlad says she’s planning to ask for a permit to keep the sidewalk dining.
“It feels normal in here,” she says, smiling behind her mask. “Which it’s not.”
Nothing is normal in foodservice these days, but Pohlad says that while she’d like to see the large communal table seating unrelated people some day, that won’t be for awhile. And as they will continue to evolve, most likely they won’t be going back to their pre-pandemic plans.