If you want to start a restaurant but are nervous about taking the plunge and signing a lease, Elgin businessman Kevin Echevarria has an answer for you: Give it a pop-up try first.
Local-Vore is opening at 13 Douglas Ave. in downtown Elgin, in the space formerly occupied by restaurants Villa Verone and, most recently, Solo, which closed last July.
Budding restaurateurs who want to test their cuisine and business model will be able to hold culinary events open to the public at Local-Vore.
The space also will be available for rent from individuals and organizations who want to hold catered events, Echevarria said.
"There are plenty of people who have opened restaurants downtown that would have benefited from (pop-up events)," he said, "to see where they need help, what recipes work and what recipes don't work. They would have been more successful."
Local-Vore is partnering with Muise Innovation, a creative culinary company that is moving its Elgin office into the second floor above his space, Echevarria said.
That means that pop-up clients will get assistance from Muise staff members and chefs for marketing and menu development.
Echevarria emphasizes that Local-Vore will be as invested into the success of pop-up events as its clients. That's because clients will not be charged upfront, but instead will be required to give a portion of their event proceeds to Local-Vore, he said.
"We are buying as much into the concept as the person who pitches the concept," he said. "We will be selling tickets just like they are selling tickets. We only get paid if the event is successful."
Local-Vore is expected to open in mid-May, pending a city inspection next week and securing a liquor license, Echeverria said.
"I know (Echevarria) has been very successful in everything he's done. I'm very proud of him as an Elgin resident," Councilwoman Tish Powell said Wednesday when the city council approved a conditional use permit for Local-Vore. "This is unique, what's he's proposing for this space, and I think it's going to go very, very well in Elgin."
The North East Neighborhood Association will hold a catered fundraiser next month at Local-Vore, a space both affordable and flexible, president K. Eric Larson said. "I really like the idea that this can function as a bit of a business incubator for restaurants that we would hope to see as stand-alones over the next few years," he said.
The venture is under the umbrella of PKE Enterprises, which Echevarria co-founded with his father, Pedro.
The company is also responsible for Dream Kitchen, which provides an industrial space for people to make and distribute culinary products.
While Dream Kitchen clients would be prime candidates for pop-up events at Local-Vore, Echevarria said, he wants to attract clients from outside Elgin, which in turn will further expose downtown and increase foot traffic, he said.
Echevarria said he has researched the market and believes his storefront pop-up model is unique.
"We don't have a business model that we could follow and tweak for our specific needs. We really needed to create it," he said.