By Michelle Ownbey
Despite the business interruptions resulting from recent stay-at-home orders, Emily Lewis has not been slowing down over last few months. She and her husband, Tim, the owners of Three Twigs Bakery at 1370 Toronto Rd., kept that location operational with deliveries and pickup orders and moved forward with opening a new café location at the corner of Chatham and Iles that was already in the works. Now the couple plans to launch two additional business ventures as well as relocate the bakery to what they intend to be its permanent home downtown.
Biscuits & Brunch by Three Twigs opened in May with curbside-only service at first. In a January interview with SBJ, Emily Lewis said she had been toying with the idea of opening a café but decided to pursue it after seeing an article in the SBJ newsletter about Tacos Pepe closing. Lewis was able to reach an agreement with John Pruitt, the shopping center owner, and utilize much of the previous restaurant equipment.
Then Lewis heard that the adjacent business, CherryBerry Springfield, was not going to reopen even after the stay-at-home order was lifted. Oklahoma resident Jeff Cash owned the franchise, which had been managed by his sister, Denise Hlad, when it first opened in 2011. However, Hlad is no longer involved in the business, and while Cash moved to Springfield last summer to operate the location on a seasonal basis, Lewis says he told her he was ready to retire.
“When I found out the guy was retiring and selling everything pretty cheap, I wanted to jump on it,” she said. “What a great opportunity to bring something here that we think Springfield needs.”
For this particular venture, the Lewises have a new business partner in Clayton Rotherham, who also happens to be the couple’s accountant through his family’s business, Rotherham & Rotherham & Co. Lewis explained, “About a month into our Biscuits + Brunch sales he said kind of jokingly, ‘The next business you start, I want to be a part of.’ When this opportunity popped up a month later, I thought I should call him and see if he was serious – he was!”
Lewis decided that having an ice cream business next to the café would work well, particularly since the café serves breakfast and lunch and the ice cream location would be open later in the day. The former CherryBerry party room space will now have shelving to sell pints of ice cream, whole pies, loaves of bread and freezers with take-and-bake cinnamon rolls and cookies. “That will be the opportunity for people to get their bakery items when we’re open later,” explained Lewis.
While she plans to reuse much of the existing equipment, The Salted Lemon – Market & Creamery will not offer frozen yogurt or be set up in the same way as CherryBerry.
“We’re going to make it ourselves; we’re going to do soft serve so we can make it from scratch,” said Lewis. “We’ll have funky flavors like I always do.”
Like her other businesses, Lewis plans to continue using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible and is in discussions with a local dairy farmer to supply pasteurized cream. “We’re not going to make it with eggs; that will make it safer and easy to teach other people who aren’t pastry chefs,” she said with a laugh.
Lewis said the location only needs a “facelift,” as opposed to a major remodel, so she is hoping for a mid-August opening, contingent on finding a manager and hiring new employees. “This was a last-minute, let’s go-for-it kind of thing,” she explained. “It’s hard to find one person who cares as much as you do who will help you run the place.”
As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Lewis also plans to relocate the bakery and utilize the existing space on Toronto Road for yet another business venture. Prior to COVID-19, she had been looking at spaces on the west side of Springfield and said she came close to signing a lease.
“My concern was, my heart has always been downtown. That’s where we originally started,” Lewis said. “Financially and businesswise, I had no worries about the west-side space, but I want to feel passionate about wherever we’re at.”
Then Lewis was introduced to downtown business owners Martin and Laurie Haxel. In 2019, the couple were the winning bidders for 312 E. Adams St., a three-story building that had been donated to the Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation. The Foundation issued an RFP which included not only demonstrating a financial ability to purchase and renovate the building, but a business plan for a project to enhance the existing downtown environment. The Haxels already owned the adjacent building at 310 E. Adams St. and planned to use a portion of the new space to expand Haxel Law Offices. However, the Haxels had also recently purchased 316 E. Adams and didn’t need the entire space for their own business, so that’s where Lewis came in.
“When Laurie took me through the space, I just fell in love with it. It felt like home,” said Lewis, who was enchanted by the exposed brick and “character and charm” of the building, including the original hardwood flooring that was discovered under the carpet.
Lewis hopes to relocate Three Twigs Bakery to 316 E. Adams St. by October and then pursue another business concept. Lewis said she’s never had a shortage of ideas. “I’ve had a vision board since I was in high school of businesses that I want to accomplish.”
Noting the challenges that she initially experienced when trying to grow her business from a shared space with Custom Cup Coffee to her own commercial kitchen, Lewis now wants to be helpful to other young entrepreneurs. She envisions a shared small business space called Branch Out by Three Twigs. Once she no longer needs the space on Toronto Road for a bakery, Lewis hopes to rent out the kitchen as a space that could be shared by multiple small businesses who could also use the seating area for pop-up events.
“A caterer could rent the kitchen space and the storefront space for a lunch to feature their product,” Lewis noted. “It takes a long time to build yourself up as a business. This will be a great stepping stone for other businesses.”
While the shutdown didn’t provide her much chance to rest, Lewis says she has been reflecting on the direction of her various business ventures.
“We haven’t even been on a vacation because we wanted to save every penny to be able to accomplish our dreams at an early stage in life,” she said. “It’s really all about supporting Springfield, and we want to see Springfield succeed. There are so many businesses closing right now. We need to see new ones take their place.”