Small businesses are important to communities and running a small business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!
A business in downtown Lancaster with a passionate following is getting ready to celebrate their third anniversary. It is a spot that was created for families to come and eat clean, wholesome foods, gather for coffee and conversation, and have a little fun. To call it a restaurant would be misleading; to simply call it a coffee shop wouldn’t be enough. Introducing: The Well.
What would you call The Well? “That’s a good question,” says Adam Leu, who owns the business along with his brother Aaron. “We’re a place to gather; a restaurant, a retail shop, a coffee shop, a place to bring your family in to play. We’re here to teach and educate, to service, and to build relationships and be a light in our community.” The words on the glass along the entryway say it best: “A Modern Gathering Place.”
The Leus’ intent was always to create a business with a family atmosphere that their own relatives and friends would want to enjoy; a modern place to eat, drink, play and live. “You see it too much that a small business consumes you. We didn’t want that,” Adam says. He continued, “Our priorities were always very clear – we have families and we wanted them to be involved, to come around and to enjoy this place. We wanted to do that for others.”
The idea for “the Modern Gathering Place” came about after Adam and Aaron held discussions about their next move in business. Inspired by several family play cafés the brothers had seen, Adam and Aaron came out of their discussions realizing they felt it was an exciting idea and something they thought the public would enjoy as well.
The search for a location began in 2013, and when scouting locations in Lancaster, they came across the old Hammond’s Clothier building at 203 S. Broad Street. It was pretty clear from first sight that it would be perfect. Hammond’s had been open since the early 1900’s and the building and its décor reflected so much of that history.
Plus, with the added bonus of empty gallery space below and above the storefront, Aaron felt it’d be a perfect spot to renovate and create a home for him and his family. After several meetings with the Lancaster-Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Destination Downtown Lancaster, the decision to purchase of the building was made, and in May 2013 the plans of opening in time for The Lancaster Festival’s Art Walk in July were laid out. And once work began, those hopes were quickly dashed. “We were pretty ambitious. We worked on the living space first, and Aaron wasn’t able to move in until December of that year- and the shop wasn’t opened until March of 2014,”
Adam laughed as he recalled. “But we did most of the work ourselves. We added the kitchen area and the bathroom, but the building was in good shape. It was mostly cosmetics.”
Now filled with self-constructed décor, hand-made crafts and goods, organic snacks and sweets, art, and a play area the family built taking up a large portion of the rear, The Well has blossomed into a popular place for locals and out-of-towners alike. And the word of these loyal visitors has been key to their success.
“We really haven’t had to pay for advertising.” Adam revealed. “The Eagle-Gazette ran an article the week we opened, which we didn’t plan on, and the Dispatch called right after that for another piece. And it’s just grown from there.”
The space, and the menu especially, were originally intended to serve a very niche market. They just didn’t realize how large that niche market was. “After the Eagle-Gazette article, we were slammed. We had lines out the door and we were thinking ‘what are we doing?’ We weren’t ready for this.” Adam looks back. They seemed to have figured it out, though, and the crowds continue to grow.
The rotating menu features organic, gluten free vegetarian foods and smoothies, juices, coffees, and treats utilizing local growers and coffee beans from around the world (and never roasted more than fourteen days prior!). The Buckeye Bar, the sweet specialty of Tim, their father, has proven to be a hit! In fact, VCNB employees may or may not consistently keep a few of them at their desk.
The Leus have taken calls from interested investors looking to add locations and businessmen looking to franchise. “But we’re just not interested in that, that was never the priority.” Adam explained, again citing the desire to have a place for his family. “I’m here, Aaron, our mother (Pat), our father (Tim), Bob’s a friend, and Mary’s helping us too. Our wives help us, our kids come in here and hang out with us. You just can’t do that if we go somewhere else. Our desire wasn’t to come here and be a restaurant, and be hidden back in a kitchen all day. We want to see you and we want you to take some of this with you. We’ll give you any recipe or information you want. We’re a part of this community and we want to be here building relationships with you.”
Visitors can stop by The Well from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on weekdays. The retail and play space can also be rented after hours at $150 for three hours. You can get connected on Facebook or call 740.573.7011.