A Success Story: Lee Kinsey, Blackbird Bistro, Craftsbury
Lee’s mobile bar was seven years old when she began to think about opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant. After years of traveling around Vermont to serve at weddings, festivals, and parties, she eyed a building in her hometown of Craftsbury that shares space with a day spa and a luxe campground.
Blackbird Bistro opened its doors in November 2019, four months before the Covid pandemic. “Opening a restaurant means juggling a lot of moving parts,” she noted, “And we had no idea what was coming. I’m fortunate that I have a lot working for me; I rely on my A-team and the community.” Community Capital was also behind her from the very beginning: “They got in touch immediately, and they were approachable, community-minded, and easy to understand.”
Lee received a loan, and a line of credit for business expenses. “The process was very smooth,” she said. “They wanted me to be prepared, and they helped set me up for success by working toward a reachable goal. I wasn’t just another number or client; they cared just as much about me, the sustainability of the business, and its effect on the community.”
Having been in business for only a few months prior to Covid, Lee says that Community Capital was “right on the ball, always funneling information to me.” As she reformatted the Bistro’s approach after months of shutdown she was blown away: “We were swimming, and our ears were smoking. The summer was gangbusters.”
Lee credits Community Capital with instilling in her the confidence to jump full-tilt back into business under very new circumstances: “Community Capital has resources for anything, and they wear a lot of hats. Since we were able to get through the most sensitive months, we knew how to react and we had systems and processes in place.”
The extended Northeast Kingdom has embraced Blackbird Bistro as a community hub: “The reception has been amazing. In the past, a lot of us have traveled over an hour to get to a different scene. Every day I meet new people who are pivotal to my experience as a business owner, as well as a human being. People really appreciate our effort. We are pretty lucky to have this.” As she enters her third year in business, Lee would like to continue to develop her management skills and work more closely with the community.