Changes are afoot at Market House Collaborative (MHC), the Lowertown St. Paul market founded by chef Tim McKee, at 289 E. 5th St.

First, the bad news. Salty Tart’s last bakery is closing Dec. 31, after a series of transitions for the Twin Cities company in 2019 that saw the departure of its founder, Michelle Gayer.

Here’s the good news. Salty Tart’s spot at MHC will go to True Stone Coffee Roasters, which is opening its first cafe.

For years, the St. Paul roaster has been supplying coffee to local restaurants, including Salty Tart and Octo Fishbar, McKee’s restaurant that anchors the market. But this is the first consumer-facing business for the company.

“We’ve toyed with the idea of starting our own cafe over the years,” True Stone director of operations Tyler Liedman said in a news release. “But, it had to be the right place at the right time, one where we felt like we could fully showcase our experience and passion for great coffee and beautiful spaces.”

The change has been a long time coming, McKee said. When Gayer left Salty Tart in June, “we kind of inherited the business, and it wasn’t really a business I was ready to be running. It was always meant to be a temporary thing, and finding the right partner to take over the coffee shop has been a bit of a search. Now we’ve got True Stone, which I think is a perfect fit.”

Two bakers with MHC connections will supply the new cafe with bread and pastries. Lowertown Bakehouse’s heritage and artisan wheat breads and Vikings & Goddesses pies and pastries are already served at Octo. The new arrangement officially welcomes Lowertown Bakehouse chef/owner Chris Sarles and Vikings & Goddesses’ founder/pastry chef Rachel Anderson into the MHC “food collective.”

“As a collaborative, this location offers a unique security net as it comes with built in clients,” said Anderson. “I’ll be providing pastries and desserts to the restaurants that also are based here. That’s a big help in mitigating the risk of owning — and growing — a small business.”

And there’s more. R & R Cultivation, indoor mushroom farmers, is joining the MHC retail market alongside Almanac Fish and Market House Meats. Customers can choose proteins from those counters, and now, mushrooms, for the chefs at Octo to prepare.

“A central factor for all of us is Tim McKee, said R & R founding partner Lance Ramm. The opportunity to be independent and in control of our own businesses while still having Tim essentially take us under his wing and mentor us is a rare opportunity. We’re all really excited to be here, to grow, learn and take our businesses to the next level.”

Market House Collaborative opened in late 2017 as a “collective of businesses that I knew and wanted to get off the ground,” McKee said. In the two years since, “it’s changed more into a small business incubator of sorts.” It differs from a food hall, he said, in that “every business that’s involved works together in some way with every other business, which I think is really kind of cool. I don’t know that food halls have the kind of framework that we’re able to achieve.”