Where Are They Now? Follow Up with Breakfast Lunch & Dinner Co-Founder Jeff Devereux
Innovation Destination Hartford spoke Jeff Devereux, Co-Founder of Breakfast Lunch & Dinner, in December 2016. (Read: Hartford-Based Social Enterprise Startup Committed to Community.) At that time, BL&D was working on “creating collective culture” in Hartford. The company has made significant progress since then. Most notably, it formed a partnership with reSET and is finalizing details for a collaborative retail space in Hartford.
IDH Website Curator Nan Price checked in with Jeff for some updates.
NAN PRICE: BL&D has been busy since our IDH feature. Let’s start with the reSET partnership. How did that come about?
JEFF DEVEREUX: BL&D Co-Founder Onyeka (Ony) Obiocha and I met at reSET’s first accelerator class in 2013, when reSET had just moved to Pratt Street in Hartford. We’ve been connected and peripherally involved with reSET for a long time since then. We encouraged them to move to Parkville and were excited when they did.
We forged the partnership because we felt the need to build a stronger entrepreneurial community. Last fall, Ony and I took road trip. I ended up out in Oakland and visited their Impact Hub co-working space, which shared a lot of similarities to reSET. It was an amazing hive of activity. I was inspired, and I realized: This is what we need in Hartford.
NAN: What is BL&D adding to reSET?
JEFF: We’re responsible for community, including coworking and events. We think entrepreneurship and social change are social in nature, so the closer we can get those people to one another, the better we’ll all be.
With reSET, our focus is to get more ground-up businesses and organizations involved. This fall, we will be launching regular convenings—forums to provide opportunities for discussion and learning around topics including social enterprise, community development, the business of art, technology, media, and journalism.
NAN: BL&D recently announced plans for Niche, a collaborative retail space in Hartford. Tell us more.
JEFF: Niche will be a brick and mortar retail location for local brands, fashion, and goods.
The KNOW GOOD Market created great sales opportunities specifically for food vendors, which was encouraging. BL&D felt the need and desire to create local revenue generation at a larger scale for these other local businesses. Not a lot of retail in the Hartford region is locally owned, which makes it challenging to promote and grow a local brand.
And, with the advent of ecommerce, there’s not a lot of energy being put into local brick and mortar retail, even though brick and mortar is still much greater than ecommerce . We thought there needed to be more support of local business growth. We hope that brands will succeed in Niche and be able to then open their own store around Hartford.
NAN: How did you find the space?
JEFF: It was a natural progression. Our partner Josh Jenkins has been working in the back of How Bazaar in Hartford for more than a year as his design space and cut and sew facility of his menswear brand demuerte. So, we’d been eyeing the space and, when it became available, we jumped on the opportunity to utilize the rest of the space.
BL&D formed a partnership with How Bazaar where we plan to sell goods up front and have space for makers (tailors, fashion brands, etc.) in the back. BL&D will be responsible for the half the space, as far as curation, and How Bazaar will be responsible for point of sale for the entire space.
NAN: When will Niche open?
JEFF: We’ve been working on the buildout over the last few months and anticipate a soft opening at the end of September and a grand opening in October.
The process has been great so far—there’s been a lot of interest. We received a couple dozen applications from people who are interested in the space.
The hope is for Niche to become an active retail space. If we do our jobs right, we could create a successful retail space in Hartford’s West End that supports the growth of local brands.
Brick and mortar retail is suffering, with a lot of high-profile bankruptcies and likely more to come. We believe if we can be creative, find new avenues, and support local, we’ll be able to help fill empty spaces and create some local ownership in the void left by the big-box stores and mall closings.
Niche seemed like a good solution. The West End isn’t far from being a destination shopping space. We want it to be a thriving retail space. We’ve seen this “concept shop” idea growing recently in larger cities like Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles. It’s kind of modeled as an antique store—brands are essentially renting space in the store as part of a larger retail space. The idea is that it can act as a stepping stone.
NAN: It’s a great way of supporting local economic growth.
JEFF: Right. We’re hoping to capture attention of national and international vendors too, so they can test the market in Hartford. The idea being to allow that to bring attention to the brands in the store and make brands think about Hartford. And local vendors—or even startups—can test their business assumptions, either by renting space at Niche or renting the space out for a more elaborate pop-up experience.
NAN: Any other notable collaborations?
JEFF: Yes. We’ve connected with Jasmine Jones, who launched Aislin at the beginning of 2018. The quarterly magazine that covers Greater Hartford arts, culture, and lifestyle. We loved what she was doing and wanted to find a way to help her grow the product as a business.
When we saw the magazine, we thought: This is a beautiful thing. We need more of this. How can we help? So, the plan is we’ll be running a campaign in the fall to help establish subscriber base.
When we started BL&D, we knew we needed to be in charge of doing our own media. We made a conscious effort to create our journal/blog, monthly newsletter (known as the Feast Up) and we’ve dabbled in podcasts and video content all to cover the things we thought needed to be covered and to build our brand. We’re excited about doing this with Aislin. Jasmine is covering a lot of things we wanted to cover so it made things easy. We want to support the growth.
Local media serves a vital purpose. The problem is, there’s not robust media in Hartford or the region. That’s why we need more of what Innovation Destination Hartford is doing. The more people know, the more they’re able to solve their own problems and better connect with their community. With good information sharing, it’s easier for things to be sustainable.
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