This fall’s opening of Taproot Lounge and Café in downtown Salem is the culmination of years of planning by 36 year old owner and operator Christopher Holland, the hard work of many volunteers and the collaboration of a community.
After graduating from business school, 5 years bartending at the Ram, and a real estate license, the Salem native began to wonder if it would be possible to take the positive values of both a coffee shop and a bar and combine them into a viable business model that he felt Salem really needed.
In 2012 Holland began work on a business plan and his most important core values emerged. First, he wanted to create a gathering place that provided a safe environment, where customers felt a sense of belonging. Also, he wanted to challenge the status quo of unhealthy business practices used – by reexamining where our food comes from and how it is prepared.
“Good food is a human right,” Holland says. “I want Taproot to stand for a fight against the larger picture as far as the way that our food goes and the way that our systems are. Our bees are dying, our animals are dying, and our earth is hurting. I want to make a positive difference somehow.”
The Taproot concept evolved into a daytime cafe with fresh juice, breakfast sandwiches, coffee and teas along with rice bowls, tapas and a full bar at night.
At the local “Salem Sharks” event in 2013, Holland was offered a chance to turn his business into a national franchise. “It just didn’t feel right,” he says, “It was about the money and not about the concept and the dream. So I said, ‘No’ and surprised a lot of people.” But that experience, he says, “opened my eyes to the interest that the community had in this idea. The meet and greet after was overwhelming. It was a whirlwind of support.”
When Holland announced a Kickstarter campaign for Taproot Lounge and Cafe in October 2013, it caught the community’s attention like a flash of lightning on the horizon. The community rallied in support to raise the requisite 25k and the Kickstarter was a success.
In May, he made a second lease offer for 356 State Street, formerly Pete’s Place, which was accepted. Many volunteered their time and energy in the massive undertaking of remodeling the interior of the historic 1868 building. The City of Salem also contributed matching funds from the Urban Renewal Toolbox for permanent improvements.
The transformation of the space couldn’t be more dramatic. “This is me expressing myself like an artist painting a picture,” Holland says, and the amount of care and creativity that has gone into the enterprise is overwhelmingly apparent.
Not only has Christopher Holland succeeded in creating an inviting atmosphere where people want to visit and stay, he has succeeded in remaining grounded himself, deeply rooted to what is most important.