AUBURN — If you like what you eat at Pure Market and Eatery, the new downtown business can send you out the door with the ingredients to make it yourself.
Open as of Oct. 11 at 10 E. Genesee St., the business offers both prepared and preparable food. Coffeehouse fare and daily specials are available on site. Thursday, they included plain, pulled pork or vegan grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, as well as an arugula salad with olives, roasted peppers and lemon vinaigrette. The coffee comes from Ithaca roaster Gimme! Coffee.
Across from the coffee bar, though, are coolers and shelves stocked with ingredients: spices, produce, syrups and more. And the staff at Pure makes its specials from those ingredients. So if someone wants to recreate that arugula salad at home, they can leave with a bottle of the lemon vinaigrette. Pure owner Luke Houghton, of Auburn, said almost all the ingredients are locally sourced.
"We make 99% of everything from scratch," he said. "Which is daunting sometimes."
The daily specials will be influenced by what's fresh and seasonal, Houghton said. But the food available at Pure Market and Eatery will also be influenced by the other parts of his business. At first, he wanted to open the downtown space to promote the main part: Pure Catering and Events. Houghton has been catering weddings, conferences and other events for about a dozen years, he said.
A private chef since 2005, Houghton has also worked in kitchens like Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Skaneateles and private conference center Savannah Dhu in Clyde. He also partnered in the former BeauVine restaurant at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn. But about five years ago, he said, Pure Catering and Events became his main focus. Since then, the business has expanded to home meal delivery service Pure at Home (formerly Provisions by Pure). It brings fresh, healthy and fully prepared entrees to homes three to five times a week — "You just have to heat it up," Houghton said.
Now, Houghton has one platform for his catering and home meal delivery businesses at Pure Market and Eatery. Not only can he and his staff of 20 to 25 prepare all of Pure's food in the kitchen of the downtown space, but the new part of Houghton's business complements the other two. If he has extra squash from a catering job, for instance, he can turn it into soup and serve it at the eatery. Or he can make a few extra meals for Pure at Home and sell them for carryout at the market. So the new space closes a "circle of product," Houghton said, and reduces his food waste to almost zero percent.
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Renovating the space, which previously held the Copper Pig BBQ & Taproom, took about a year. When it missed out on opening before summer, Houghton said, it had to take a backseat to the other parts of his business. But he also wanted to make the space welcoming, as he predicts its coffeehouse atmosphere will attract a wide range of customers, including remote workers and business meetings.
"We really went out of our way to make this place comfortable," he said. "I want to sit here, so I hope that other people do, too."
At night, Houghton plans to rent Pure Market and Eatery for dinner parties and other events. He may also organize supper clubs, which would see groups of 25 to 30 served a special menu at the two long tables in the middle of the floor, where the space's partition has been removed. Regular dinner hours and specials are also a possibility depending on customer demand, Houghton said.
Before those plans take shape, though, an important part of the business will launch in the next few weeks: Pure Market and Eatery's app. Customers will be able to see what's being served on a given day, Houghton said, and place their orders in advance. A new website that brings together the market, eatery, catering and meal delivery parts of his business is also coming soon.
And though it is his business, Houghton prefers to talk about Pure using the pronoun "we."
"I am such a small part of what actually gets done," he said. "Part of the vision is mine but we have a culture that it's a team here."