Sundays will have a familiar taste for William Bidinger and his family now that their regular brunch stop — Flavor at the Depot — has won a lease extension to continue operating in downtown Savage.

The Bidingers, who live in Shakopee, go to the restaurant in the historic Depot two or three times a month for such brunch selections as biscuits and gravy, pancakes with rosemary potatoes, and blueberry and rhubarb muffins, all accompanied by live music.

“I thought it was just a coffee shop and then one morning I saw the ‘Flavor’ sign and saw they had breakfast,” Bidinger said. “We’ve liked it so much that almost every other Sunday, we’ve been going back. I like the old-fashioned feel of the building. The service is really good.”

In addition to winning over regular customers such as Bidinger, Flavor at the Depot also won over a former opponent in Savage City Council Member Al McColl. He had previously voted against extending the restaurant’s lease.

McColl said his earlier votes against the lease extension simply reflected his desire for the city to use a “transparent process” in selecting a business to operate in the city-owned Depot.

That occurred to McColl’s satisfaction this spring. On April 20, the council voted unanimously to extend the restaurant’s lease through the end of 2017.

The process began in January, when the city solicited proposals from businesses interested in the Depot, drawing bids from Flavor at the Depot and the owners of the Dunn Bros Coffee shop on Egan Drive in Savage. Then a subcommittee of the city’s Economic Development Commission interviewed the applicants, recommending that the restaurant continue operating at the Depot.

“Now everybody has had an opportunity,” to propose a business use for the depot, said McColl, who said he received a dozen e-mails and a couple of phone calls in support of the restaurant. “I was happy that Flavor was able to stay. It’s another needed restaurant downtown, and the food is phenomenal.”

While the two bids were similar financially, the proposal for a Dunn Bros Coffee shop raised questions about the potential cost of upgrading the Depot, Assistant City Administrator Brad Larson told the City Council. Two other coffee shops have failed in the building since 2007.

Under the lease extension, which takes effect in July, Flavor at the Depot owners Paul and Cindy Hurley, will pay $1 a month in rent for the first year, plus property taxes, insurance and utilities. The rent will rise to $200 a month in the second year and $300 a month in the third year.

“I was very happy, especially having Mr. McColl make the motion [to approve the extension],” Paul Hurley said. “It was exciting to see that he had come around and seen the benefit. We were pretty confident that we would get a lease extension but you never know. The City Council recognized that a food place is a better option than another coffee shop.”

Paul Hurley said he’s planning to add a few extra tables in front of the restaurant and possibly another inside for the summer. He also would like to set up an outdoor table on Sundays to sell coffee and muffins to patrons of the nearby farmers market. With the hiring of a new chef a few weeks ago, the restaurant will add some items to its menu and likely be open more hours.

Ken Sutherland and Sharon Odell, the Dunn Bros Coffee shop owners, offered to pay $1 a month in rent along with property taxes and utilities and then 10 percent of gross sales after breaking even, which they estimated at $12,500 in monthly sales.

 

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail is todd_nelson@mac.com.