Food with Purpose
For brevity’s sake, many people refer to Southern Roots Filling Station as a coffee shop. While the description is not inaccurate, Southern Roots proprietors Mariah and JP are selling more than just delicious coffee, food, and bulk. They are also selling a healthy and down-to-earth way of life. Healthy food has an expensive and snobby reputation, Mariah explains, but she wants to separate food from trends. The mission of Southern Roots is to offer all people access food that is cheap, filling, healthy, and hearty. With that in mind, Southern Roots offers a sliding-scale rice-and-beans bowl everyday. The suggested price is $2-$7, but you can pay what you can for this organic, vegan, gluten-free meal made with love. Customers routinely pay extra to subsidize those in need. No one leaves Southern Roots hungry for want of money.
JP and Mariah built Southern Roots Filling Station on Mariah’s original business, selling her dips, spreads, baked goods, and tinctures at local farmer’s markets. The business was recently able to spread out by moving to a storefront at 1275 King Street, adding coffee, a bulk foods section, and space to hang out. It quickly became an institution. But Mariah and JP have not become chained to their location. They still enjoy bringing their business to the people at the Hemming Park Green Market. For Mariah, it is an honor to help local farmers get their food to market.
Sustainable Food, Sustainable Building
Opening the storefront turned out to be quite a bit of work. JP has a background in the building trades, so they decided to tackle the renovation by themselves. The decision to build green was only natural for the couple, considering the strong ethical foundation of their business. Like healthy food, Eco Relics believes that building for a healthy planet should also be accessible to all.
Load music helps. JP cranked up the tunes and danced his way through the demolition. He says that he “got that full blast mentality,” and after the first day of sweat equity, it all became real. He painstakingly exposed a brick wall hiding behind crumbling plaster, rather than cover it with new material. He also scraped up the deteriorating laminated tile floor, leaving behind an organic textured concrete surface that no new floor could match. The walls, floor, and exposed beams in the ceiling impart a timelessness to the store. One might be forgiven for thinking that it has been open for decades.
Eco Relics, an architectural salvage company, supplied much of the building material, including a door repurposed as a table, cabinet drawers hung on the wall as shelves, cushions from old church pews, and much more. JP and Maiah stopped by the warehouse often during their build-out, not just for building material but also for inspiration. The skilled craftspeople at Eco Relics are always available to consult, whatever the project might be. Recreating the feel of Old World architecture at Southern Roots was as exciting for the Eco Relics crew as it was for Mariah and JP!
I asked Mariah and JP for any advice they’d care to offer for new or aspiring business owners when building out a storefront. JP was quick to chime in, “have a first aid kit!” They both agree that where and how you spend your money counts. Mariah advises hiring licensed contractors for trade work like plumbing and electrical, but saving money on equipment by buying used. JP adds that it is not necessary to have the latest and greatest equipment. “Just get out there and make it happen! Be determined, don’t let go!”
Both Eco Relics and Southern Roots are businesses based around combating wastefulness for a sustainable future, to prove to you that it does not cost more to make healthy choices for your body and our planet. In fact, you might be surprised by how much you can save. The Eco Relics crew is humbled to be a part of neighborhood businesses like Southern Roots, and we humbly invite you to be a part of our neighborhood business by stopping by our warehouse at 106 Stockton Street.