Pekara Bakery & Bistro is expanding to a second location very soon.
Their current location exists in Downtown Champaign at 116 N. Neil Street, and soon, they will open another additional location at 811 W. Springfield in Champaign, a space once occupied by a gas station which has been closed for nearly 10 years now.
While there isn't a definitive timeline for the expansion to be completed and the doors to open — expect things to move along nicely in the coming months.
I spoke with Alli Nisley, Pekara's GM, about the expansion plans and the scope of the new space.
Smile Politely: First off, why a second location?
Alli Nisley: Because we can. [laughs] I think people want it — there's nothing really out there in that area, and it is a good opportunity for us to expand a bit. It'll be a much bigger space, so we'll be able to create a lot more. Baking on-premise there as well, and it gives us a chance to make a lot more fun and exciting (and good tasting) things.
SP: Why this location in particular?
Nisley: My boss (Chul "David" Kim) found it, and he was eyeballing it. It is almost the perfect location — it is very busy traffic-wise, there's not a lot out in that area as far as options go, and he felt that we'd do good business there. The building itself is full of possibilities as far as space is concerned.
SP: What menu items will change, if any? What is the scope?
Nisley: We're going to have a lot of things we have at the bistro, in addition to flattops and fryers, and new ovens, and all that fun stuff. We're going to work on a separate brunch menu, we're still working on the details of that menu as we speak. Things will be similar, we'll still do coffee and tea, so the bistro, only bigger.
The floorplan is very open, there will be tons of seating — window seats, tables, big family tables, etc.
SP: What are your hopes for the new spot?
Nisley: We think it'll open us up to a new customer base, people that might not necessarily head downtown often, we'll have our own parking lot — so there are a lot of possibilities. It'll just immensely expand our customer base, people that might not have trid us before — so it'll open us up to that. Catering will expand and we'll be able to manage a higher volume of catering and special orders.
SP: How do you see it fitting into the food/dining scene?
Nisley: We'll be filling a space that isn't really occupied by anything at the moment. There are a ton of neighborhoods, and I think it'll be a fantastic neighborhood joint. I think it'll start to create its own restaurant scene in that area.
SP: What is your general timeline for the expansion?
Nisley: We've bought the building, so we just need permits and all of that — we're working with the City to get things ironed out, the Health Department, and all that — so there's a decent amount of work that needs to be done, but nothing major.
I think people are really excited about it and so are we, it is a great opportunity for us.
Stay tuned for more info and updates about this expansion in the coming weeks.
Top photo from Google Maps, other photos from Pekara.