Stopping into the Station North Arts Café, or its sister restaurant Nancy by SNAC, you’re likely to be greeted by name with a warm hello from owner Kevin Brown. SNAC and Nancy are the kind of restaurants where you’ll come in for a good meal cooked up by co-owner Bill Maughlin, and are bound to get wrapped up in a lively conversation with staff or patrons on anything from a unique piece of art to the neighborhood happenings. It’s this investment to go above and beyond for their customers, their employees, and the community at large that’s been key to Brown and Maughlin’s success over the past 13 years.
Brown believes that SNAC and Nancy have been able to thrive amidst changes in the neighborhood because of their commitment to building relationships with people who live and work in Station North—as an individual engaged in giving back, and as a business owner creating a vibrant gathering space for people and ideas. As he puts it, “It’s really been the community that’s made this space what it is. We love people—that’s apparent—but it really is engagement of the legacy residents, the ambassadors of the community, everyday people who want a quiet space and have lunch and also be involved with other creatives and share their knowledge and the word on the curb. We need that type of space, that affirming space.”
Each employee at SNAC and Nancy is a critical piece of that community. Hiring people from the surrounding Greenmount West and Barclay neighborhoods, and working with local workforce training providers to give opportunities to jobseekers with diverse experiences, is just one of the ways Brown and Maughlin show their commitment to sustaining authentic local relationships. “My employees fit into the restaurant because they are community people. They know the neighborhood, they know the community. It’s an open affirming space, where all people should come together—Black, white, young, old, straight, gay to be whoever they are over food, over art, over issues that are important to the community.”
Brown loves to see customers get to know and care about his staff as much as he does. And that’s easy to do, since many SNAC and Nancy employees have stayed with the restaurant for 3, 5, or 7 or more years. A rare feat in the industry, SNAC and Nancy are able to sustain a dedicated workforce over the years in part because of the investments Brown makes in their personal and professional growth. He’s regularly asking himself, “What can we be doing to make this person better,” and asking his employees, “What can we be doing to make this job better?”
There’s no place quite like SNAC and Nancy where customers, business owners, and employees come together to create a community of support. “You have to go above board for people nowadays, because you can go anywhere and get an egg sandwich, but you want to go to a place where you’re engaged, where you’re listened to and what you say is important. I wanted to get into restaurants, because I feel like restaurants are good connectors for people, spaces where people collaborate and feel free.”