Here may be another example of how Lawrence once again breaks from the herd. Right here in the middle of Beef Country, Lawrence may become known as the Capital of Veggie Burgers.
It is still a little early to bestow that title, but one of Lawrence’s emerging, potentially nationwide success stories is a veggie burger company.
As we previously have reported, Hilary Brown, the owner of Lawrence’s former Local Burger restaurant, has started a veggie burger production company that sells products under the brand name Hilary’s Eat Well.
Now, the company is undergoing its largest expansion yet. Brown confirmed to me that her company has signed a deal with an investor to occupy an 8,000-square-foot, vacant industrial building near 23rd and Haskell.
The building at 2205 Haskell Ave. used to house a machine shop, but has been vacant for a few years. The purchase will allow Brown to move out of rented production space at 19th and Haskell, and significantly expand production of the company’s products. It also will allow the company to move its administrative offices out of the upstairs space that was above the former Local Burger restaurant near Seventh and Vermont streets.
Brown started making a few veggie burgers out of her Local Burger restaurant in spring 2010, and demand was so strong that she had moved into production space at 19th and Haskell by February 2011. By summer 2012, the company struck a deal to have its veggie burger products sold in Whole Foods stores across the country.
Brown said the company is in discussions with other national retailers and food service companies to carry the products. The company expects its production capacity to increase “by a lot,” and the company has ordered new equipment for the location.
“I think I just wrote the largest check of my life,” Brown said of the recent equipment order. “But we think it will pay for itself very quickly.”
The company plans to launch three new products in 2013, including something called a Hemp and Greens Burger, Veggie Bites and a special remoulade sauce that was popular at Local Burger.
Currently, Hilary’s Eat Well has about 20 employees, but Brown said the company likely will add four more as part of the expansion.
She hopes to be in the building by March or April. Kelvin Heck of Lawrence’s Colliers International brokered the deal for the seller, while Lawrence resident Steve Ruttinger of Spectrum Real Estate Services represented the buyer.