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Bartertown Diner and Roc’s Cakes to open at long last | Business

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Bartertown Diner and Roc’s Cakes to open at long last
Bartertown Diner and Roc’s Cakes to open at long last

By George Wietor in NEWS

After an outpouring of support and a modicum of controversy, Bartertown Diner and Roc’s Cakes will open at long last. The eatery, located in the former Discussions Coffeehouse (6 Jefferson SE), has been in development since late 2010 and will officially open at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

The vegetarian eatery is worker-owned and opened as a collective where each of the employees have an equal stake in the success of the restaurant. The core Bartertown collective comprises Ryan Cappelletti, Roxanne "Roc" Aguilar, Matthew Russell, Onya Jackson, Mike Bussler and Dylan Putnam-Smith, all of whom have recently sworn in as members of the Grand Rapids branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Union. Each of the members bring their own expertise to collective.

"Everyone has a specific role,” said Cappelletti, who previously created the vegan menus at both Stella's Lounge and Brick Road Pizza Co. “No one really does the same thing.”

Three additional workers - Mattie Graves, Grace Gager, & Kate Vlaming - are involved at a probationary level. “You have a month from the time you start to see if you like it, to see if you want to join the IWW, and if you want to be part of a collective,” Cappelletti said. “It gives you a month to learn what we are all about.”

Between building woes, lack of finances and a slow response from the city, the restaurant experienced its fair share of delays. It was originally slated to open on March 13.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact [of the] building we took over,” said Cappelletti. “Every single thing you could think of needed to be done to it. It was in horrible shape... we replaced everything but the heater and air conditioner - and there is talk of replacing that.”

The collective did everything from scratch with as little money as they could.

“We found a guy, [William Campbell], who was willing to build our bar, but the deal was he wasn’t allowed to buy anything. We paid him a good wage but he had to find everything but the nails. At night, he would go out and find stuff, and in the day, he would build.”

The cost to open the restaurant has been around $34,000 to date, cobbled together primarily from a micro-loan from a private investor and a successful...

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