Corrie Sid began investing in Tallassee when she first purchased The Guest House in 2018 and almost immediately began taking great strides to turn it into an innovative new inn and event venue, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit a year ago and health guidelines warned against nonessential travel, she had to rethink those plans.
"When COVID hit, my world turned upside down, as did everyone's," Sid said. "I had submitted plans to the city to begin work on The Guest House and all of the sudden, no one could travel and stay in an inn or hotel, at least not without risks. I kept thinking, this will end soon, this will not be a big deal, but I was so wrong. It was a big deal, and it has left a lasting impact on the entire world. One of the hardest hit business concepts has been hospitality, both hotels, and restaurants. I was planning to build both at The Guest House. What is a girl to do? I just did what everyone was doing, I paused on any concept of planning, hunkered down at my home in California, and began the process of waiting."
Sid, who is a Tallassee native, remained in touch with her planned business partners who did not want to wait out the pandemic, but rather adapt to it in a nearby city. Sid knew she had to act fast or she may lose them. She began searching for a way to bring that same business concept to the Tallassee area, with The Guest House still in mind, and that's how Grove Station came to fruition.
"While I was waiting, my culinary partners for The Guest House, Chef Miguel Figueroa, and his amazing wife Mandy, who is a professional baker, were not so interested in waiting. They were thinking through some new plans, they wanted to open a market in Auburn. They were planning to serve baked goods and pre-packaged to-go items in a small newly built retail complex. I knew if they opened that shop in Auburn, I would lose them forever and they were the team I wanted to work with. In listening to their plans, I started thinking more and more about their market idea and how great it would be if Tallassee could have something like that. I also felt like The Guest House needed more businesses nearby if we had any chance of attracting folks to stay overnight. As fate would have it, 19 Sistrunk was on the market and I had an idea. The first thing I did was send Chef Miguel and Mandy a link to the building and said, "What if you opened your market in this building, instead of in Auburn?" I called Kami Scarborough, who was the realtor for the property, and asked her if we could tour the building. A whole slew of my family and my culinary team walked through the property, while I was on Facetime from California. Everyone thought it was a great property and a great idea. I closed on the building in October 2020 and we started mapping out the plan for what was going to happen in the building right away. By January 2021, construction was underway," she said.
The facility is a 5000 square foot building that is split between two floors.
"We decided to create a butcher shop, bakery, and mercantile downstairs. We will sell fresh and marinated high-end cuts of meat and seafood out of the butcher shop and we will sell small treats from the bakery," Sid said.
During lunch hours the butcher shop will serve deli-style hot sandwiches from the grill out back. Customers will also be able to pre-order prepared meals from the smoker and grill for pick up, like a weeknight dinner for the family.
The bakery will offer custom cakes, pies, and cookies, including wedding and themed cakes.
The mercantile will carry local goods such as honey, jams, milk, and yogurts, but also gourmet wares such as local artisan dish towels, serving dishes, and baking equipment.
"We also plan to sell whole bottle select wines and craft beers," she said.
According to Sid, the real specialty of this new market is the catering.
"We will offer catering externally for any size event, but we will also use our upstairs loft space for private and curated events," she said.
The upstairs portion of the facility is a 2500 square foot, 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom loft-style apartment with a double island, chef's kitchen, and dining table that seats 12. The loft can also be rented for overnight stays.
"Our ultimate plan is to rent out the space for private dinners as well as dining experiences hosted by Grove Station," Sid said. "We will be able to host 24-36 people seated upstairs for endless experiences, from cooking classes to tasting dinners, from mixology to paint night, you name it we can and will create it. It will not be a restaurant experience like many folks in the area are used to."
Sid wants to create a culinary experience that Tallassee has never seen.
"When I was a kid, I remember waiting for an hour or more to eat at Red Lobster in Montgomery. I want folks to never have to wait like that, it is miserable," she said. "So, the idea is for customers to purchase tickets online to an event, on a set day, with a set time. It could be a class on how to make a charcuterie board, it could be a nibble and sip flowering arranging session on a Saturday afternoon, it could be an 8-10 course paired tasting dinner, you choose the event based on the options on our website. You show up on the date and time of your event and you are promised something special."
While this culinary experience may be new to Tallassee, it is trending in other areas.
"This concept is popping up all over the US and there is an example of something similar in Birmingham called Tasting Table, in case you are curious. We are so excited to show you just how amazing these experiences can be," Sid said.
Grove Station is one of many new businesses downtown, and Sid said she has plans to bring a fresh look to the area that is aimed to create a tourist destination.
"We are also acutely aware that we are one of a handful of businesses opening in downtown Tallassee right now and while we are thrilled to be part of the revitalization efforts, we take our role in helping attract more businesses very seriously. One way we can help is through creating a mural on the side of our building. We are working with a regional artist to come up with an interactive mural concept that will attract "Instagramers" from all over. The more folks who come to our building to shop or even to just take a photo, the more interest we will get from other business owners who might take a chance on downtown Tallassee," she said.
Construction at Grove Station is expected to be complete by the end of May and the goal to open the doors for business in mid to late June.
"We are taking private event bookings for the upstairs loft now for July. Reach out to us on social media (@grovestation) if you would like to reserve the space for an event," Sid said.
Sid said the city is on the cusp of regeneration and she is looking forward to being a part of it.
"We believe in Tallassee and we know something special is happening right here, right now. If you don't believe…just wait, you will see."