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Chester County Press

Square Roots Collective develops community initiative

02/14/2023 03:24PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw               The Star & Lantern, a cocktail bar currently under construction at The Creamery of Kennett Square, is part of an initiative by Square Roots Collective that once completed will funnel income from the venue into local agencies in the Kennett Square community.

 By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

From its beginning, the primary work of Square Roots Collective has been to be a weaver of threads.

As defined, its mission is to advance the community of Kennett Square so that all residents can thrive. As applied, it incorporates solutions to the pressing needs of the community it serves, through municipal services, infrastructure, trails and transportation, and the on-going issue of equality and justice, using the fabric of placemaking, economic opportunity and collaboration.

Now, under a paradigm developed in August of 2021, Square Roots Collective has created the Square Roots Community Initiative (SRCI), a tax-exempt program that funnels the income from The Creamery of Kennett Square and at least two future venues – all non-profit organizations -- into the vital fabric of Kennett Square.

“The idea of the initiative is to create sustainable community benefits through for-profit entities and have those profits help to fund non-profit initiatives,” said Luke Zubrod, Square Roots Collective’s chief of staff, who serves on SRCI’s board with SRC’s Finance Associate Stephanie Almanza. “Wherever there is an existing or emerging partnership that advances the common good tends to be where we look to place funds.”

The work of the SRCI is already underway. Eight local agencies have so far become beneficiaries of $156,000 in total funding disbursed in 2022:

  • Borough of Kennett Square: $48,000
  • Kennett Trails Alliance: $25,000
  • Voices Underground: $25,000
  • United Way of Southern Chester County: $20,000
  • Brandywine Red Clay Alliance: $20,000
  • Lincoln University Foundation of Pennsylvania: $10,000
  • Good Samaritan Services: $5,000
  • Kennett Collaborative: $3,000

While The Creamery now serves as SRCI’s sole income generator, the profits of two venues, once completed, will be folded within the initiative.

The Star & Lantern, a cocktail bar for which construction was paused due to structural deficiencies with the historic property, will open in the Creamery’s boiler room and represent the work of the Voices Underground project, a SRC partnership with Lincoln University and Longwood Gardens that promotes the history of The Underground Railroad as part of a larger mission of promoting racial healing through storytelling.

“The entire theme of this concept, from the art on the wall to the names of the cocktails to the stories on the menus, is to encourage curiosity around the history of The Underground Railroad,” said SRC founder Mike Bontrager in a 2021 interview.

Another of SRCI’s income source will be the Birch Street Inn, now in the design stage, which will eventually open as a 14-room boutique hotel and restaurant.

On Feb. 8, Zubrod was joined by Greg Thompson, the co-executive director of Voices Underground, at a presentation before the Kennett Borough Council about the economic, historic and community benefits of The Star & Lantern and the SRCI. In response, the Council has lent their support to the continued restoration of the Creamery and Star & Lantern and is encouraging the commonwealth to provide grant funding from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

“The Borough is thrilled to support this project, recognizing the substantial benefits to residents of the Borough by creating a robust engine for local economic growth and a true community anchor for continued Borough of Kennett Square collaborations and cultural pursuits,” wrote Borough Council President Doug Doerfler in a Feb. 8 letter to Steve Heuer, director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of the Budget Bureau of Revenue, Capital and Debt. “We applaud SRC for spearheading this impactful redevelopment project and for working in close collaboration with local stakeholders.

“It is our hope that the associated RACP request will be carefully considered and ultimately approved for this important project.”

“The community has cause to be excited about the work on Birch Street, because it is fundamentally a project for their benefit,” Zubrod said. “When people visit The Creamery to enjoy a beer alongside their neighbors, the profits help fund a trail and address numerous other needs within our community.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].