Windy Corner Market, at Muir and Bryan Station roads, looks like a clean and cozy little place to drop by for lunch. And it is, but there's a story behind the eatery that involves Earth-friendly development, evolving local food systems and personalities, and some world-class chow.
Opened in September in the footprint of a run-down convenience store and gas station, the market serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a country-store atmosphere. In the dining area, shelves are stocked with regional Kentucky Proud products including Woodford Gold sorghum, Weisenberger Mill flour and corn meal, Elmwood Inn teas and Screamin' Mimi's salsas.
Martin Delker, who calls himself a "green guru," is a LEED- accredited professional who worked on this project for the general contracting firm Churchill-McGee. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an international system of certifying green construction.)
Delker helped with many green aspects of the building. There's the resurfaced flooring, created by Lexington's Many Moons Design from recycled horse-farm plank fencing. Reclaimed wood was used for siding and benches. Natural light comes through insulated windows with reflective tinting, and turf reinforced with special plastic netting was used to reduce the impervious paved parking area.
Lexington artist Kim Comstock painted a mural on an outside wall that depicts what she describes as "wind-blown scenes of farming, agriculture, which are whimsical and fun."
Thanks to co-owner Ouita Michel, whose Holly Hill Inn and Wallace Station have evolved along similar lines, the atmosphere and flavor at Windy Corner Market are regional and authentic. The menu has vegan choices, including steamed vegetable plates and farm fresh salads, and classic Southern po'-boy sandwiches.
Windy Corner chef Cameron Roszkowski, who began his career with Michel when he was 15 and who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, is a local-food advocate.
"I plan to use and support local folks for the rest of my career because I've seen the impact it has on them," Roszkowski says.
The Berries on Bryan Station farm, operated by Erik Walles and family, grows some of the USDA-certified organic lettuces, herbs and fresh vegetables used and sold at Windy Corner, and it operates a Community Supported Agriculture program and market during the warmer months.
"We're about as local as you can get," Walles says. "Because we are only 400 yards away, I can carry the lettuce over on foot about twice a week."
The business generated by Windy Corner has allowed Walles to build a year-round solar-heated greenhouse, where he grows romaine, red giant mustard, curly kale, spinach, tender lettuces and tangy Asian tat soi.
"I hand-pick them, one leaf at a time," he says. Sons Grant and Brett raise and harvest herbs to dry and sell.
"The fresh taste is superb, and we've established a wonderful community atmosphere here," Walles said.
Walles, previously an industrial chemist, became a stay-at-home dad and then took a class at the University of Kentucky called Tilling the Soil of Opportunity. He learned to develop a business plan that emphasized advance marketing for success. Last summer, Walles provided 200 pounds of fresh okra each week to Ramsey's restaurants.
Some Windy Corner menu items are named for particular suppliers. The Blue Monday and Bourbon Ball sundaes use classic Ruth Hunt chocolates from Mount Sterling. The Stone Cross Farm sausage-and-egg po' boy is named for Stone Cross Farm and Cloverdale Creamery in Spencer County.
Stone Cross Farm provides pork, beef and cheese products. Owners Patrick and Leeta Kennedy have sold their products at farmers markets for more than 15 years, but they say the opportunity to have year-round wholesale and restaurant customers has helped them achieve sustainable prices and work hours. Patrick Kennedy said he thinks that being able to control processing, production and distribution regionally leads to increased food safety for consumers.
"The fewer hands the products go through, the better," he said.
Eight-inch brioche rolls, 150 of which are bought daily from the Ghyslaine bakery in Indiana, are used for the restaurant's po' boy sandwiches. Ghyslaine manager Holly Lavy said the business from Windy Corner has allowed her to expand. She plans to open a restaurant next year, called Ghyslaine, at 725 East Market Street in Louisville.
The locally produced theme continues in the dessert case, with pumpkin pie tarts and carrot cake made from scratch by Martine's Pastries on Industry Road.
On Saturday, Windy Corners will host Holiday Market, with Christmas trees, cards, candles, jewelry, catnip mice, soaps, winter vegetables from Three Springs Farm in Carlisle, and holiday aprons and napkins from Pomegranate Inc.