Money grows on leaves
BY KRISTINA ROSEN
Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen gave away wildflower seedlings at each of its four Lexington locations in honor of Earth Day last month. The promotion provided an optimistic and symbolic moment of hope in what has been a challenging year for almost all Lexington business owners.
Around this time last Spring, Vinaigrette temporarily closed three of its total six locations. Drive-up tents were implemented at Lexington’s Palomar and Hamburg locations to serve as makeshift drive thrus, and some locations remained curbside-only for months.
VSK’s app usage went through the roof, and at one point, 60 percent of customers ordered on the app versus in-store. Co-founder/owner and Lexington native Bryce Anderson says the pivot, “allowed us to survive,” adding that the focus at the time was, “not about where you are going, it’s not how profitable you are—it is ‘how do you survive?’”
Free delivery was also available with online ordering, and customers had the option to buy a carton of 15 eggs at checkout on the app. A free roll of toilet paper was also provided with every delivery order. At a time when TP was hard to find everywhere, he remembers, “Maybe it encourages people to order, but mostly it is to provide something people are having a tough time finding.”
He adds, “When something difficult happens to the world, at first you start to care for how you will survive, then you start to look at how you will provide for the people around you.”
Anderson says, “I think Kentucky is going back to becoming more agricultural-based, when historically we have been that. I think part of Earth Day is how do we keep investing in Kentucky to becoming this rich agricultural state (that other states have but Kentucky is going back to).” He says, “I want people to love Lexington more and then they’re going to care about Lexington more. I want them to love our farmers and farmland more because then they will care about it more, invest in it more, and then in turn love it more. That is the hope with this…to remind people to care for our land (that we’ve been given).”
All VSK owners are from Lexington and investing in the community is important to them. Anderson says, “We want to live here for the rest of our lives. We want Lexington to keep growing, and to be a healthier place where people flourish. We see that holistic development of our state — it is something we’re all really excited about.”
Anderson is also an owner at Breakout Games and Activate Games. Although the other businesses are not food related, and the industries are diverse, he says they’re all “customer-heavy and employee-heavy.”
Investing in people—from customers to employees—is a big part of the business. He continues, “How we train our employees is really similar across all the brands even though they’re doing totally different things.”
“Who is going to the Gap store and then going to pick up two tomatoes on their way home?”
—Bryce Anderson on Vinaigrette’s early roots in a failed mall kiosk concept
If at first you don’t succeed…
The concept of Vinaigrette was developed after a quick — and disastrous — trial run at Fayette Mall in 2013. Owner Bryce Anderson says they started out in the mall to sell local fruits and vegetables in a kiosk.
How did that work out?
He freely admits, “It was horrible,” adding, “Who is going to the Gap store and then going to pick up two tomatoes on their way home?”
Anderson and the team then collaborated with local chefpreneur Ouita Michel to develop the menu for VSK. None of the owners had backgrounds as chefs, but they wanted to integrate local ingredients into their menu in a way that made sense. Anderson says they asked themselves, “How can we add value by creating this unique combination of 15 different things in this bowl.”
In August 2014, the first Vinaigrette opened at Townley Center on Leestown in Lexington’s popular Meadowthorpe area.
He says, “We wanted to see what it would be like to open a salad restaurant in Kentucky.”
The location was originally an Orange Leaf, a popular frozen yogurt spot (another one of Anderson’s business ventures). So they divided the space and added a wall — part Orange Leaf, part Vinaigrette.
This time, the concept took off, and Vinaigrette now operates four Lexington locations, in addition to one in Cincinnati and one in Louisville.
This article also appears on page 7 of the May 2021 print edition of ace magazine.
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