By Natalie Simms
Sunflour Community Bakery opens this week in Rome’s growing River District of Fifth Avenue, West Third Street and Avenue A. With renovation work under way at a few other nearby buildings, along with the planned $2 million special sales tax project for improving streetscapes, it’s just the start of more things to come for the area. If all goes as proposed — including Wayne Robinson’s The District riverfront retail/residential campus, overall development could top $30 million by 2021.
The next step is hours away.
“I chose the current location because of a handful of reasons, the primary being location,” says Sunny Knauss, owner of Sunflour Community Bakery opening Tuesday at 8 a.m. at 500 Avenue A. “I have long been charmed by this side of the river in downtown, and I am glad to see so much beginning to happen here. I hope to see our entire downtown, including the ‘western corridor,’ become more cohesive and walkable, including streetscape and crosswalks.”
Knauss has been in the food and beverage industry most of her life but began baking for friends and family as well as for small farmers’ markets a few years ago. And then last spring, she decided to take it to the professional level and attended the King Arthur (Flour) Headquarters in Vermont and set about gathering techniques for her own shop.
“I looked at several locations over here, including two that are now in stages of rehab and restoration but I chose this cute little rock building because of its charm. The exterior is flagstone and the interior has always been a beauty/barber shop, except for a short stint as a clothing consignment store. It will be 100 years old next year,” she says.
“Because of all this age and charm, it needed tons of renovation once the ugly dropped ceiling was removed, including rewiring, insulation, and climate control. It is now certified by the state as a manufacturing kitchen, which means that we can sell to restaurants, retail stores, coffee shops and such, in addition to in-house retail sales.”
Sunflour primarily will offer specialty breads as well as some sweets and nutritious “quickie” breakfast items.
“We use super high-quality ingredients like King Arthur flours, organic flours, oats and flaxseed, organic spices, local non-GMO eggs, local meats and veggies when possible,” she says. “We make the basics, like whole wheat and rye, as well as jalapeño cheddar, tomato-basil and other seasonal and specialty breads. We also regularly offer a gluten-friendly chocolate almond flour torte with a ganache and almond topping as well as some other gluten friendly items.”
Knauss plans a “soft” opening this Tuesday with a grand opening in mid-June. Summer hours will be Tuesday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Sunflour also is a featured vendor at the Between the Rivers Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8-11:30 a.m. at Bridgepoint Plaza. You can check out the bakery on Facebook or Instagram.
Just down the block, Doc and Ginny Kibler (Big Cedar Creek Farm Inc.) have been renovating their property at 229 and 231 Fifth Ave. The couple received a $3,000 façade grant from the Downtown Development Authority earlier this year and have been working to improve the building over the last few months.
“We have gutted, put in a new foundation, replaced missing brick where the structure was compromised, put new facade on both buildings and new back doors. A deck has been added in the back and we are in the process of cleaning out the rear lot from overgrown vines, etc., to allow use of that back natural area,” says Ginny Kibler, who also owns Harvest Moon/Dark Side of the Moon on Broad Street.
“As far as the plans for the building, we have been contacted by some interested parties and the interest is varied for different purposes. We will consider financing the right business if it fits with the vision of Fifth Avenue. We have some ideas of what we envision but I’m sure other folks have better ones.”
Doc Kibler adds, “We are doing the shell and will leave it open for someone to customize their design and put their own spin on it. But we are really excited about the renovations. We hope to put the 231 side up for lease soon.”
The 229 side of the building currently is the home of Harvest Moon’s Wicked Moon Foods kitchen, which makes and distributes its Wicked Pimento Cheese to various restaurants in Georgia. This operation will stay in the building.
Another wild card to development is the vacant building at 401 W. Third St. Kevin Dillmon, owner of Honeymoon Bakery, purchased the property earlier this year and was awarded a $5,000 façade grant from the DDA in February. However, work has yet to start on the building.
According to the grant application, Dillmon plans to replace windows and completely repair the building but there is no mention of his business plans for the property. Dillmon did not return our calls or emails last week for additional information.
As for continued development, the 2017 SPLOST included $2 million for the River District streetscape project to improve beautification and sidewalks. DDA director Amanda Carter says the project will be beneficial.
“It is a very exciting time for the River District, in regard to improvements and new businesses,” she says. “We have hosted Coffee Breaks and an event there, along with utilizing resources, such as our façade grant program and low-interest loans. We look forward to additional beautification and streetscape improvements as well.
“The city street department paved and added additional parking spaces last spring. With the 2017 approval of the $2 million River District streetscape project, the area will definitely benefit. We hope to make some smaller beautification improvements in the near future, like (but not limited to) the addition of art, flowers and banners.”
As for a timeline on the streetscape project, City Manager Sammy Rich says they are still waiting to determine if there will be a bond to start the 2017 projects. Collection of the new penny sales tax started April 1.
“We are still in discussion with Floyd County as to whether or not there will be bond issue to help kick start the 2017 projects,” says Rich. “Thus far, our top priority ’17 project to roll out is the public safety items. Once we have a determination on the possibility of bond money, we will circle back and decide which projects get rolling. Personally, I’m very excited about the streetscape as I think it will encourage other private development beyond what we are currently seeing in the district.”
One of the “pioneers” in the district was The Foundry Growler Bar at 255 N. Fifth Ave. and West Third Street, opened in fall 2016. The Courtyard Rome Riverwalk opened across from Barron Stadium more than a year ago.
The signature project is expected to be The District, a multipurpose riverfront development off West Third Street adjacent to the Courtyard. Rome developer Wayne Robinson is working with architect Mark Cochran of Cevian Design Lab to create a mixed use campus of retail, apartments and condos valued at $25 million. Robinson has been in talks with the city for 18 months with the idea of developing 2.2 acres with retail and residential, opening by summer 2021. Background