Meeting of the Minds
The progression of Roswell’s friendliest place for provisions
written by PAMELA A. KEENE | photos courtesy of ROSWELL PROVISIONS; PAMELA A. KEENE
The pairing was as natural as a croissant with a cup of coffee. Lorry Kemp and Kelly Smith-Blacha met by chance when they were back-door neighbors in a Roswell subdivision in the late 1990s. Kemp worked full-time in television production at Turner Broadcasting, commuting to downtown Atlanta daily; Smith-Blacha, a self-taught baker, created outrageously popular cakes that she sold first from her home and later from a small shop on Mimosa Boulevard in the city’s historic district.
“We are so much alike, yet we complement each other’s strengths and talents,” Smith-Blacha said. Right back at her, Kemp responded, “And, we’re perfect as business partners and as friends, because Kelly is the creative one and —“
“Lorry is the organized one,” Smith-Blacha finished.
In some ways, they are complete opposites. Kemp grew up in Massachusetts, where she studied at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She came to Atlanta on a student exchange program with Georgia State University and interned at Turner.
“I liked it here so much that I just never went back home,” she said. A Nashville, Tenn. native, Smith- Blacha also came to Georgia as a young adult and ultimately decided to stay.
Eventually both of them and their families ended up in the same subdivision in Roswell; that was almost 17 years ago. As their friendship grew, they began to chat about their careers and the direction of their lives. Smith-Blacha’s business was booming and Kemp was preparing to give birth to twin boys.
“Lorry had been helping me with the numbers side of the cake business and it just evolved that she was ready to leave her full-time job downtown and focus on raising the twins,” Smith-Blacha said.
The two formed a more formal partnership and sought out larger space in Roswell’s historic district. In June 2008, they settled on the upstairs space in a building from the late 1800s and opened Party Chic by KellyKakes. With several smaller rooms off the large center area, it was perfect as an event facility, so they also began catering special occasions with Smith-Blacha’s cakes.
“We intended to do cakes and to be a full-service party and event venue,” Smith-Blacha said. “We were doing lots of bridal and baby showers, selling cakes and other retail items upstairs. People kept saying that it would be great if we did lunch, so we started serving light food.”
Business was going well, and the duo approached their landlord about expansion space downstairs when the previous tenant, an antique store, closed its doors.
“So many people wanted to be in this area, but we were able to negotiate a lease for part of the downstairs and opened Roswell Provisions on Canton Street in [Oct.] 2011,” Kemp said. “The downstairs became a community market with an old-world European feel, where we sell high-quality meats, cheeses, desserts, pastries, fine wines, olive oils and other items, with a little bit of retail mixed in.”
PASTRIES, QUICHES AND CARPENTRY
As Roswell Provisions’ market grew, it became the driving force behind the partnership. “We started serving breakfast and lunch downstairs in the market,” Smith-Blacha said, adding, “Still, unless they had been here for special events, people didn’t realize that our café was upstairs. It was time to kick it up a notch.”
In 2014, they undertook a major renovation, restyling the upstairs space into a more refined, yet casually rustic and country French café, named Le Bistro.
“Most women get excited at a shoe store, but I really like hardware stores,” said Smith-Blacha, who used her carpentry skills to transform the space. “We realized we needed to make the décor of the upstairs a bit more appealing to corporate guests, a little more masculine than our previous décor, which was very feminine.”
She capitalized on the used-brick walls and open-ceiling beams and added large French-deco posters and other art. French music plays softly in the background as diners enjoy the bistro-style menu of sandwiches, soups, quiche, salads and desserts. In fact, the menu offers more than a dozen signature desserts from various flavors of crépes and tarts to crème brulee, cupcakes and cakes. An intimate bar and lounge, adjacent to the front balcony, offers views that overlook Canton Street.
Kemp and Smith-Blacha have also recently created Roswell Provisions Wine and Social Club, nicknamed Le Wine Club, a monthly calendar of wine tasting and other culinary related events. The tastings include samplings of three to five wines paired with light bites, orchestrated by a wine expert.
MORE THAN PROVISIONS
Le Wine Club also hosts monthly Chef Community Table Wine Dinners, complete with wine pairings and themed menus prepared by local guest chefs. The La Famiglia Italian Wine Dinner was recently led by Chef Mix McCrory who shared his contemporary take on old-school Italian specialties, served family style. A wine expert helped guests learn more about the meal’s wine pairings.
“Our Chef Community Table events have become very popular,” Kemp said. “We always have such a great time and it’s yet another way that we can help bring members of the community together in a fun setting.”
Kemp and Smith-Blacha see part of their roles as businesswomen in Roswell through the sense of community they’ve created at Roswell Provisions. Their community table near the front of the market seats eight, encouraging people to share the space with others. “It’s been amazing to see how people have reacted to the community table,” Smith-Blacha said. “We’re pet friendly too; the whole idea is to build a strong sense of community here.”
It’s clearly working, as Roswell Provisions market stays busy seven days a week with neighbors popping in and out. Upstairs, Le Bistro is a versatile venue for private functions, parties, showers, family reunions and rehearsal dinners, corporate events and business meetings. The space can accommodate groups of 10 to 100. On Saturday nights, Le Bistro stays open for dinner with live music.
In other words, the ever-evolving shop that Kemp and Smith-Blacha have built exists more than just to “supply with food, drink or equipment, especially for a journey” as Oxford Dictionary defines the word “provisions.” It offers the chance to meet and repeatedly gather with friends, and you never know where a journey of friendship may take you.