Coppersmith is changing the perception of your neighborhood restaurant for the better.
When hospitality and community combine, the social impact is deliciously positive!
In the culinary world of Boston, most restaurants will tell you that their business is about hospitality, service or food and beverage. Not many could venture to say that their business is actually about goodwill and social impact, that is, until the idea for the Coppersmith came along.
“We are in the business of community,” said one of the three owners/developers of Coppersmith Restaurant, Travis “Tbone” Talbot, a hired gun and a bold, trend-breaking presence in both the hospitality and philanthropy spaces, noted for his participation in the Boston Bites Back event at Fenway Park to raise money for the One Fund.
“The new model of hospitality is giving,” he said, smiling lightly under his characteristic Red Sox cap, a fan despite his Canadian origins.
While still a for-profit restaurant, Coppersmith, set to open at the end of this fall, is creating a unique business paradigm focused on community, specifically the communities of South Boston, South End, Dorchester and Fort Point/Innovation District, that is intent on collaboration with local non-profit organizations as part of everyday business, as well as providing a “third space” between home and work for residents to relax, be entertained and eat a great meal.
“We see ourselves as being a hub, a place where people can socialize and be a part of the community. We like to say that Coppersmith is an authentic neighborhood restaurant, not just another restaurant in the neighborhood,” said Talbot.
The venue, located at 40 West 3rd Street in Southie off the Broadway T stop, settled in a rustic copper foundry (formerly the Dalquist Manufacturing Co.), will feature a large, 88-seat communal-style dining room, two dueling food trucks, an indoor and outdoor bar totaling 59 seats, a street-side patio with 60 communal-style seats, a roof deck and raw bar, and a grab-and-go café. Much of the décor and design of the venue comes from the original building and reclaimed materials from the demolition.
Coppersmith plans to use their historic space and goodwill relationships as a home base for activities like fundraisers, educational “family dinners”, food literacy seminars, cooking classes, and food truck competitions, where a portion of proceeds would go to charities, and initiatives within the community like the organization No Kid Hungry.
Each area of the spacious restaurant can offer a different style of dining, all of which will be a mix globally influenced preparations and traditional dishes with “adventurous” updates, according to Executive Chef Chris Henry, formerly of 9 at Home and Drink with the Barbara Lynch Group.
“We want to start with a broad range of offerings and narrow it down based on community feedback,” said Henry. “We want to let the neighborhood dictate the direction that we take, while still making sure to be socially responsible with all of our vendors and ingredients.”
In a recent press release, Henry revealed a “sneak peak” at the menu, divulging fare options like lobster fritters with pimenton aioli, food truck offerings like thin patty burgers or tacos and street corn, large meals like a roasted pig or clam bake, or bar snacks like homemade beef jerky and spiced Macrona almonds.
“At the end of the day, we want everything to be accessible,” said Henry.
Clearly, there is something for everyone, and Coppersmith means that. From their nearly 20 partnerships with non-profits to the food they will provide, they are conscious of how they can be of service to their audience in every capacity.
One of the many ways that they intend to create community wealth is through employment and workforce development initiatives. Coppersmith’s most impressive initial partnership is with Triangle Inc. in Malden, an organization that works to empower people with disabilities, teach them life and vocational skills, and place them in paid, competitive jobs so they are active and productive members of their community.
“Coppersmith is a community partner that values their mission of providing good food, but also values being a true community employer,” said Jeff Gentry, Director of Youth Services and Community Relations at Triangle.
Coppersmith’s partnership with Triangle is two-fold. Triangle has been aggressively recruiting students and adults with disabilities for their Career Pathways Program and their Barista Training Program. The restaurant is guaranteeing eight position slots for Triangle recruits—three in food prep, three in barista, and two in custodial.
Triangle has received both state and federal training dollars at Bunker Hill for the recruits to do 100 hours of culinary training and be ServSafe Food Handler Certified. The recruits, six from Boston Public Schools and six adults from career centers, will also have to spend 35-40 hours at Triangle or their career centers doing job readiness training, according to Taciana Saab, Workforce Development Coordinator at Triangle.
“We are looking for commitment, attendance, positive attitude and a desire to learn and grow,” said Saab, gesturing with her hands as she sat in her cubicle at Triangle. “Not every student at job readiness training will make it to Bunker Hill.”
On the barista side, Joel Costanzo, Program Director of Youth Services Division at Triangle, will be using his talents as a barista from his time as General Manager of Atomic Café Coffee Roasters to train and develop student skill sets. The program, for which he is still recruiting BPS students and recent grads, includes 10 weeks of training, eight of which will be hands-on activities, learning the day-to-day operations of the café at Coppersmith.
“They will be on the floor with other coworkers, learning about teamwork and how to interact with people in a social environment, and I’ll be right there, guiding, helping and supporting,” said Costanzo.
Costanzo said that he hopes to begin training in mid-July and is looking forward to giving students the skills they need to start a career.
“If you can do vocational training and career development at a hip restaurant in Boston, in the real world, you sink or swim every day,” said Gentry as he walked around their large Malden offices. “So many people with disabilities have been protected from failure their whole lives, and it’s incredibly disabling. Young people should have ability to mess up a latté or see what happens when you skip a shift. It’s a realistic approach to developing individuals.”
General Manager Paul Bruno, formerly of Dillon’s with Glynn Hospitality Group, expressed excitement at the opportunity this partnership brings for networking, both to raise awareness about Triangle’s cause, and to get Coppersmith’s name out as a company that wants to get involved in the community and is willing to help anyone who needs it.
Talbot reiterated this notion of making the restaurant available to the non-profit world and going beyond just providing a space.
“We are a part of so many different goodwill collaborations and want to provide as many opportunities as we can,” he said.
Another impressive partnership that Coppersmith is involved with is the Fresh Truck, “a retrofitted school bus that operates as a mobile healthy food market to support food access and community across Boston neighborhoods.” To start, Coppersmith built the truck for them out of a school bus, using their connections with Building Restoration Services and their food storage expertise to design the space based on how people would move through it.
“This is not your typical food truck,” said Josh Trautwein, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Fresh Truck, who found inspiration for the truck when one of the main markets in Charlestown had to close for a year for renovations, leaving the low-income residents lacking for fresh produce and unable to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
To enter the bus, you simply walk in through the front door, and can stroll down the aisle, handpicking produce from the shelving units along the driver side that carry 30 to 40 different kinds of food. A counter top for additional space, games for kids, cooking demonstrations, etc. runs along the passenger side. Payment via cash, credit or food stamps happens at the back of the bus, where a set of stairs has been built into the back bumper for customers to exit. WIFI and electricity is built onto the bus, as well.
In addition to mentoring Fresh Truck on things like bus maintenance and food storage, Coppersmith is storing the bus and their food for them on-sight, saving the non-profit thousands of dollars each year and helping the business work towards becoming a more sustainable model. This is only a small example of the circle of reciprocity that is part of the daily agenda and operations at Coppersmith.
“They leverage the resources that they have to streamline costs of nonprofits,” said Trautwein. “Connectivity to a restaurant and food space is a huge asset to us. Funders and partners look at that and see it as invaluable.”
Trautwein said that going forward in the future, Coppersmith and Fresh Truck will work together to figure out how the two businesses fit into the broader food and health ecosystems. For example, Coppersmith and Fresh Truck are exploring food rescue possibilities to get healthy offerings to families living in shelters or people who don’t have access to prepared foods.
“Coppersmith sees us as a resource to be a ‘vehicle’ and partner in their development of new initiatives that they want to support,” said Trautwein.
As if Coppersmith didn’t already have enough community partnerships. They will also be working with non-profits like Slow Food, Let’s Talk About Food, Pine Street Inn, Men With Heart, Future Chefs, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, among 12 others, and they are always looking for more ways to redirect their resources back into the community.
“Non-profit worlds are amazing at helping others,” said Talbot. “We are simply applying our resources and unique skill sets in areas like marketing, logistics, and even volunteer manpower to help those making a difference.”
by Rebecca Bellan