What started as a way for Duckweed Urban Grocery to repurpose its less popular products has transformed into a café that’s local to its core.
“We opened the café as a buffer for when the grocery needed help getting rid of product,” café manager Derek Grimsley said.
However, when the downtown Tampa grocer’s in-store eatery, Duckweed Café, launched its new breakfast, lunch and dinner menus on June 12, La Segunda Cuban bread, Urban Canning Company jam and other Bay area-made items were integrated into the offerings.
From using the store’s organic produce and squeezed juice to providing ready-to-eat fare from Mike's Pies and Sassy Cucina's in nearby coolers, the café incorporates ingredients from as many local vendors as possible.
Rather than fashioning everything in-house, “We try to help out our brothers and sisters in the community,” Grimsley said.
Preparing café grub with products sold in the store, he added, encourages customers to buy the locally made items for use at home.
And for downtowners who already frequent Duckweed for groceries, beer and wine, it gets better.
Though Duckweed Café wasn’t a part of the indie store’s former 600-square-foot location on East Polk Street, the newer 2,400-square-foot site, which opened last year in the Element high-rise along North Tampa Street, gave the café room to grow. Under renovation since May 28, the café will soon share counter space with the butcher shop and deli it plans to rent out.
Pre-sliced Boar’s Head cold cuts were no longer cost-effective for the café, so Duckweed decided to purchase meats and cheeses in bulk from the vendor instead. Cold cuts will be shaved daily for sandwiches and wraps, and a Land and Sea Market butcher will handle the butcher shop’s operations.
Every day, the café staff will prep 25 offerings of each sandwich or wrap for the grab-and-go case, and Grimsley has 50 types he wants to rotate throughout the week. Customers may order their sandwiches pressed, and a kegerator, as Grimsley calls it, will offer three Mother Kombucha teas on tap; both are new features to the café.
People still flock to the toasted ciabatta roll with apple and brie, but Grimsley described a Hawaiian pineapple sandwich, mild yet sweet, that the public has responded to as well.
With its pear-colored paint and exposed concrete walls, eclectic artwork and decorative light strings, Duckweed Café has a stylishly worn feel; Grimsley calls the mix-and-match look “shabby chic.” There are four tables inside, near the Dig Dug arcade game, and a few more out front.
Grimsley said the loft overlooking the store will become a selling space for dry goods, possibly with an additional seating area and board games.
To draw people to the new menus, Grimsley plans to hold marketing campaigns for neighboring residents and workers.
The café’s renovations are scheduled to last until June 23, but may finish before then.
Duckweed holds music and art events and offers three beers on draft from its tiny, tucked-away bar. This reporter predicts that a café focused on community and fresh protein selections will only add to Duckweed’s one-stop shop appeal to urbanites.