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Creative eatery and social space proposed

Childhood entrepreneurial dream drives budding owner

Posted: September 9, 2012 - 12:09am

On her website, Meghan Grunow asks visitors a question: “Where do a downward dog and a grilled cheese sandwich call home?” This humorous riddle is one of many examples of how Grunow’s unique new Halcyon Café project is full of surprises and novel treats.

Grunow’s idea is a new place to meet and interact with fellow locals. A place she said, where kids can play and adults can enjoy themselves without going to a bar. A place where buying a plate of cheeses or a glass of pinot will result in cold hard cash in the hands of Juneau charities.

Grunow introduced her idea during the recent First Friday. The event featured DJs Alaska Scorchers, handmade raspberry whipped cream and a promotional video at the Goldtown Nickelodeon. When asked about her favorite grilled cheese sandwich, the café’s staple comfort food that is “gooey and hot and cheesy,” Grunow paints a delicious picture.

“Probably pine nuts and pesto, is what I want right now,” she said. “Maybe with a lighter cheese, not cheddar … gruyere.”

She explained that although the proposed menu may change some as she adapts to the tastes of her customers, she still plans to offer deli sandwiches, cheese plates and FroYo frozen yogurt.

“Being able to go into somewhere and buy a quality deli sandwich where you can pick all of the ingredients … and a place to sit down and enjoy it,” said Grunow, confident that her deli would be well received by future customers.

The hopeful future deli owner said she wants people to be able to interact easily at her café. She went so far as to redesign traditional bar seating, creating an undulating, S-curve counter that allows groups to sit face-to-face. Groups of friends at a traditional bar sit shoulder to shoulder, leaving people at the ends out of the conversation, she said.

“Moving to new cities and going out alone, you end up staring at the selection of alcohol,” Grunow explained. “You don’t meet anyone, it is kind of awkward.”

Grunow plans for her café to offer more than a tasty menu. It also proposes yoga classes during times that cater to the 9-5 work set. The space can also be used for lectures and a kids play area.

“It will also give parents and caregivers time to have grownup time,” Grunow states.

Grunow’s approach to fundraising is also creative, taking advantage of new technology and the growing trend of crowd funding. She has opened a campaign on the website fundable.com and is currently seeking donations (fundable.com/halcyon-cafe).

“Anything from 20 bucks up to buying a stake in the business,” Grunow said. “We need 14 big investors or a combination of smaller ones.” She said the storied investors involved at the start of Juneau’s Alaska Brewing Company inspired her.

The Fundable.com fundraising campaign has around 20 days to go, Grunow has raised close to $1,000. She still has a way to go with a goal of $138,455.

“I am fundraising through our community so I can open a cafe that will then fundraise for our community,” Grunow said in a recent email.

Though Halcyon will not itself be non-profit (501c3), Grunow attributes the charity aspect of the café as the kernel that sprouted the entire project. She said her business model allows for as much as 20 percent of the café’s revenue to go toward local non-profits and charities.

“It’s a goody-two-shoes business for sure, but it is also a strong financial model,” explained the aspiring businesswoman.

Grunow said the gifts would fund specific needs, not just blanket charities. She gave an example of a situation where the charity Caner Connection has an apartment in Seattle for patients going through treatment and Halcyon’s donation pays for one month of rent for that apartment.

“A very specific concrete thing that you can feel like you helped,” Grunow said.

If all goes as planned Grunow said she could open Halcyon by January. She said the cafe would remain open until 11 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends. The late hours are to give locals an option for late night revelries outside of the bar atmosphere and late-night fried fare.

“This may seem like a lot of ideas, but there are a lot more,” Grunow said. “I’ve been obsessed with this since high school.”

For more information visit JuneauCharityCafe.com.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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