Starting out as an all-natural, organic grocery store, Swheat Market switched gears about two years ago into restaurant and catering services, adapting to social and economic factors.
"My intention was not to be a restaurateur but one door closed and I looked around and a window was opened so we had to take advantage of an opportunity. It has served us well and I hope we have served the public well," said Kari Hodge, co-owner. "The best part for me is we went from having a kitchen the size of a storage building to being able to expand out so that we could expand our menu and offer more options."
With help from business partner Tim Thompson, the restaurant expanded again in October to include dinner staying open until 8 p.m. six days a week.
The duo attributes their success to faithful customers and a strong community. Taking pride in their downtown location, Thompson commented on the importance of local support and the challenge of maintaining that through consistency.
"We have so much repeat business -- loyalty. Our patrons are very loyal. Some of them come in three or four times a week for lunch or dinner or both. Sometimes you see them twice in one day," Thompson said. "You have to build your reputation -- maintain quality and consistency. You can try new things but you still have to maintain your reputation. You can't start cutting quality because costs go up."
Another aspect of the restaurant's staying power highlighted by the owners is a dependable staff with little turnover.
"Loyal, honest people are really hard to find -- they really are, and we've been very fortunate to have people that have started work here from the day I opened and are still here," Hodge said. "And then we grabbed a new chef who has really just put his heart into it and we're just one big family. We're very fortunate."
Both partners dedicate much of their free time to volunteer pursuits. Remaining active in the community through various activities, Hodge and Thompson see their individual endeavors as a way to give back.
Hodge spent time on the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors before being elected to the Cartersville City Council. Thompson has served with the Bartow Health Access and is a Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce past president.
"Between the two of us we're very civic-minded and I think that comes across to the general public, and we certainly want to do our part -- this is home. You've got to give when you get. ... It's been a really good experience to be so involved with the community. I've really enjoyed it and still do," Hodge said.
As advocates for local commerce, the owners of Swheat Market urge Bartow County residents to shop and dine locally. For out-of-town customers, Hodge specifically thanked local lodging establishments for referring guests downtown.
"It takes a community to keep everyone dispersed and trying all the local fare. It's just very important we all work together. So I'm very appreciative of that," she said.
The Swheat Market is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for lunch and dinner. For more information, call 770-607-0067 or visit www.swheatmarket.com.