By Rick Nelson
Size matters. Ask Steve Horton, co-owner of Rustica. The four-star source for exceptional breads and pastries has been busting out of its cramped quarters for some time, squeezing every square inch of space possible out of the building it shares with Java Jack’s Coffee Shack. “We’re on top of one another here,” he said.
Horton has just announced that his 5-year-old artisan concern is relocating, and the address is going to be a disappointment to those within walking distance of 46th and Bryant who have grown accustomed to strolling in for a slice of almond-studded bostok, a bittersweet chocolate cookie or one of the city’s best baguettes. The new shop is going to be several miles to the northwest (Google-map it: 3220 W. Lake St.) in a high-traffic spot in between a Punch Neapolitan Pizza outlet and a Barnes & Noble store in the Calhoun Village shopping center. Sound familiar? It’s the same strip mall that is now home to the insanely popular Burger Jones. First one to get a parking spot wins.
The reason for the relocation? Space. Lots more of it. “In theory we’ll be able to do three times more volume than we’re doing now,” Horton said. “Right now our space is just too small, and we’re limited by that. We run out of bread, and it frustrates people.”
Along with increased capacity for commercial customers – restaurants, natural foods co-ops – the roomier digs should improve the drop-in dining experience. For starters, it’s going to allow the bakery to partner with St. Louis Park’s Bull Run Roasting Co. (supplier of Lunds and Byerly’s private label coffees) to offer single-cup coffees brewed with small estates beans. “It’ll be along the lines of Kopplin’s,” said Horton, referring to the perfection-obsessed St. Paul coffeehouse, which also features Rustica goodies.
Horton also said he and Corner Table chef/owner Scott Pampuch are working out a way to continue their fruitful sandwich-salad alliance. “Right now we’re settling on the idea that he would supply us with ingredients and help us with sourcing and prepping and we would put everything together at our place,” Horton said.
Demolition at the new space (it was last home to the Calhoun Grill before the restaurant relocated to downtown Minneapolis) is underway, and Horton had hoped to open by the end of the summer. One glitch, though; a fancy Italian oven won’t arrive until probably early October. As soon as it arrives and is installed, Rustica 2.0 will be open for business.
Meanwhile, Horton is also in negotiations to keep a retail presence in their current — and devoted — southwest Minneapolis neighborhood. “The best part of our business has been the neighborhood support and the feedback we get from our regular customers,” said Horton. “We’re not moving far, but we’ve also established that base of customers.” Nothing firm is in the works, but Horton expects some kind of deal will work itself out before he turns in his keys at 46th and Bryant.
The new 40-seat cafe will take on an evening component as well. “Punch doesn’t do a lot of dessert, and dessert is fairly limited at Burger Jones,” observed Horton. “So will that create a dessert business for us? It’s an unknown, and an opportunity.”
Here’s what I think: Horton & Co. are going to be moving a ton of those bittersweet chocolate cookies.