Restaurant takes root on the Square
Matt and Tracey Shepperd founded I Am Change in 2007 and started the Hydrate Hope project to help create clean water in countries like Haiti, India and Tanzania. But with the downturn in the economy, the Shepperds turned to self-funding as a way to sustain the nonprofit. While trying to find ways to bring in money, the couple decided to open Roots Bistro restaurant in November 2011.
"We decided to find something that would fit work-wise with our mission but allow us to continue the work we've been putting our lives into the last few years," Matt Shepperd said. "The main purpose of this business is to continue to fund projects around the world."
Another reason for a restaurant, Shepperd said, was to put down roots in a great community and celebrate local farmers, ranchers, breweries, artists and musicians.
They often have live music from local musicians, such as David Ramirez and Sky Zito, hang locally created art on their walls and carry gluten-free and other specialty beers from local breweries.
Roots also grills and bakes everything, since the small kitchen does not allow for grease traps or vent hoods, but Shepperd does not see that as a drawback.
"We make 97 percent of our food in-house," he said. "We get comments all the time about our food being delicious. When I bus tables, I take back a lot of empty plates."
But that doesn't stop Roots from trying to add as many creative and gourmet items to their Americana menu as possible, such as the new Pulled Pork Roots Style ($9). This sandwich is pork slow-roasted in a house marinade topped with red peppers, green bell peppers, garlic, caramelized red onions and melted mozzarella on a tomato-basil focaccia bun.
Overall, the Shepperds enjoy the restaurant business, but there is a greater purpose at the root of everything Roots does.
"We all have the capacity to make a difference in the life of someone else," Shepperd said. "We want people to walk in and have a good experience."
The Roots Salad ($9) consists of apples, dried cranberries, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese and grilled chicken breast on a spring mix with a raspberry vinaigrette. It's become a staple among customers, Roots Bistro co-owner Tracey Shepperd said.
Roots Bistro uses organic and fresh produce from local growers as often as possible, co-owner Matt Shepperd said.
"It's also our goal to be a farm-to-fork restaurant," Matt Shepperd said, "But we're not quite there yet."
Warm, vintage atmosphere
Roots Bistro took over the space of what was previously Down the Alley Bistro and Amore' Boutique. Co-owner Matt Shepperd wants customers to experience a warm, vintage feel when they enter Roots. Though the Shepperds are still transitioning to this atmosphere, Shepperd said the restaurant has undergone quite a bit of renovating already, such as ripping out the previous red carpet and subfloor to expose the original hardwood, adding new lighting and putting in birch counters.
I Am Change
"The World Health Organization estimates that every 15 seconds, one child dies of a water-borne illness," Roots Bistro co-owner Matt Shepperd said.
With his wife, Tracey, he founded I Am Change so people could help with the world's issues, Shepperd said. Its project Hydrate Hope creates clean water in Haiti, India and Tanzania through shallow well drilling, well repair and the construction of water sanitation facilities, Shepperd said.
On World Water Day—March 22—Roots Bistro gave 25 percent of their profits to Hydrate Hope, Shepperd said.
Roots Bistro, 118 W. Eighth St., 863-7080, www.rootsbistro.com
Mon.–Thu. 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.7:30 a.m.–midnight