When it Takes a Village to Raise a Restaurant

Lell's Cafe in Rock Hill is a "Community Supported Restaurant." Photo: Lell's Cafe.

Lell’s Café opened its doors on Cherry Rd, Rock Hill in November 2010. Since then, Rock Hill inhabitants have been enjoying Lell’s scratch-made biscuits, many great omelet options, black bean soup, lunch sandwiches, scones, Kahlua cheesecake and other delicious creations every Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch.

Lell Trogdon, owner and chef, greets her customers with friendly big blue eyes and welcoming personality. Her first appearance in Rock Hill was as head of the kitchen staff at Cupps Café, a short-lived coffee house located near Winthrop University.

After Cupps closed its doors, Lell began looking for ways to return to the Old Town area and do what she loves: feeding people with good quality food. With all the turmoil in the economy, she opted for something different than a bank loan and decided to try something unconventional: Community Supported Restaurant (CSR) Model…

CSR is very similar to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), instead of produce, you get paid back in terms of meals. Although the CSR model seems like it would be great for many small restaurants, unfortunately one size does not fit all. Lell explains, “the key to success is having people who believe in your work and business before you even open the doors.” So without the existing customer base from Cupps, Lell’s Café would not have been possible.

Now that the café is up and running, Lell is giving back by supporting other local businesses. She displays the works of local artists in the café. Most of her ingredients are bought from local farmers. Lell strongly believes in sustainable and local farming, which is reflected in her menu. Eighty percent of her breakfast menu consists of local ingredients, and by summer, she believes most of her lunch menu will also be sustainable. When local is not feasible, Lell seeks out vendors that fit her business and food philosophy. For example, she buys coffee from Intelligentsia out of Chicago because she finds their direct trade practices to be among the best in the business.

Currently Lell has approximately 25 large-dollar CSR supporters who have bought shares, and several dozen $35.00 to $50.00 share supporters who bought coffee cards and chairs. This is a huge experiment for her and for the future of small business.

Lell believes a key to success in business is flexibility. “You have to let your business take you where it wants to go”. I am glad her business has taken her to Rock Hill, and I hope it stays here. That way I can indulge in her cheesecakes without feeling guilty—I just forget about the calories by reminding myself that I’m supporting a worthy cause!

Lell's Cafe in Rock Hill is a "Community Supported Restaurant." Photo: Lell's Cafe.

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2 Comments

Filed under Restaurants, Sustainable Food

2 responses to “When it Takes a Village to Raise a Restaurant

  1. We love our Lell! She helped us years ago by offering our truffles and we continued on our path while she worked at getting this shop and now she’s brought us back again. We visit as often as we can to camp out for a breakfast to lunch transition. Good eats!

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