Prolific restauranteur Kim Bartmann is selling the iconic Bryant-Lake Bowl in south Minneapolis, which she opened in the LynLake neighborhood 25 years ago. Longtime BLB employee Erica Gilbert is buying the establishment.
“Erica wanted to buy it and it’s really getting to be a time in my life where I should be selling a couple things if I want to keep opening a couple things,” Bartmann said of the deal.
Bartmann’s favorite aspect of the business is creating and developing new locations and concepts. “My title remains ‘instigator’,” she said with a laugh.
Earlier this year Twin Cities Business reported that Bartmann had tapped Christopher O’Donnell, a former CEO of Famous Dave’s of America Inc., as an investor to help spur growth in her portfolio of eateries. Now Bartmann is searching for an additional investor.
“I’m actually actively out there looking for another equity partner who is interested in aligning with us and helping us grow,” Bartmann told TCB.
Bartmann says that the BLB sale was not connected to adding O’Donnell as an investor. Sales at BLB have been down, but Bartmann says that’s not unique among her operations in what has become a challenging market for casual dining restaurants with table service everywhere.
“Definitely the neighborhood has changed, and sales have fallen at Bryant-Lake Bowl as they have at all of our restaurants in 2017, 2018,” said Bartmann. “We’re slowly turning that around.”
Restaurateur Kim Bartmann, on the left. (Photo by Travis Anderson)
Bartmann stressed that the personal connection with Gilbert was a big consideration, giving her comfort that BLB will be in good hands: “I wouldn’t be out on the public market trying to sell it,” said Bartmann. The sale is slated to be finalized in November.
Bartmann operates a range of restaurants including Tiny Diner, Pat’s Tap, Red Stag Supperclub and Book Club. The BLB sale will leave Bartmann with nine different operations. That counts Trapeze, a small “party space,” that opened next to her own Barbette in mid-June.
Bartmann’s next project is to create two spaces on the ground level of a new apartment project at 205 Park Avenue in downtown Minneapolis that will be developed by Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates.The plan calls for a restaurant and a separate, small coffee shop/bakery called Flour Power. There’s no name yet for the restaurant: “That concept is still under development,” said Bartmann. She’s targeting a September 2019 opening for both.
For the moment there are no other projects in the pipeline.
“Christopher is helping me build a management team. I just added a marketing person to my team to help drive sales,” said Bartmann. “I’m looking for that [additional] investor and then we’ll start looking actively for opportunities beyond 205 Park.”