Madison's only vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl, is for sale.
Owner Jennie Capellaro opened her vegetarian cafe at 1970 Atwood Ave. in 2009. On Monday, she announced to followers and fans that she was putting the restaurant up for sale.
"I'm very much hoping that someone wants to carry it on in the spirit of having a vegetarian and vegan restaurant for the community," Capellaro said. "I feel like it would be a loss to the community if someone came and wanted to turn it into something else."
Capellaro said she's looking for someone, perhaps a couple or group of partners, to take over the restaurant, name and all. Keven Senke of Banyan Management owns the building, and Capellaro has four years remaining on the lease.
"It would be great for two people to do together," Capellaro said. "It would help if there’s someone else to shoulder some of the burden."
When fully staffed, The Green Owl has about 24 people on the payroll, many of them part-time. The restaurant, located near Alchemy Cafe and across from Tex Tubb's Taco Palace and One Barrel Brewing, is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday.
Among Capellaro's challenges has been retaining staff, especially as the number of restaurants has grown and it costs more to post job ads on Craigslist. She's currently without a chef or kitchen manager.
"That has been very challenging," she said. "When I opened in 2009, we posted open interviews and I had a line down the street of people applying."
Now, she said, Capellaro pays $25 to post a job on Craigslist and "multiple people don’t even show up for interviews. There’s so many places looking for employees, people just don't care."
Capellaro has been grateful for assistance from the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation, which helped her launch the business when banks didn't believe a vegetarian/vegan restaurant could work in Madison. She's been encouraged by the number of people who are expressing support on Facebook, and she's already had several people inquire about purchasing the business.
"I’ve been getting a great response from people who love the Green Owl," Capellaro said. "I've been talking with people who would like to carry it on in the same manner. It's a great neighborhood, a great space."
The Green Owl hosts regular special events like a vegan Thanksgiving and high tea on Easter. On March 7 at an event called Plant-Based Phenomena, The Green Owl will host Lauren Montelbano of Surya Cafe, Jonny Hunter of Forequarter, Laurel Burleson of Ugly Apple Food Cart and Jason Kierce of Adamah Neighborhood Table.
As for Capellaro, if a sale doesn't pan out she's already thinking about how much longer she'll be able to stay. She's tired of a life where, while on vacation in France, she got a panicked text from the restaurant that the microwave had broken.
She's considered the idea of opening a different concept, though she may not go back to food service right away.
"It’s really fun to open a restaurant," Capellaro said. "I love designing the space and picking flooring and making a space look beautiful, planning your menu, things like that.
"But I really need a break for a little while to think about what comes next."