From a food truck to farmers markets to Market Street, Cowbell Kitchen’s next expansion is right up the road in downtown Leesburg at 26 N. King St.
Since starting out as a food truck concept by Cheryl “Cher” Strasser in 2012, the past few years have held some big changes for Cowbell Kitchen. Strasser and business partner Kaeley “KK” Brady opened their Market Street storefront in the fall of 2017, after gaining notoriety for years at farmers markets throughout the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. The goal was to finally have their own commercial kitchen space and offer grab-and-go food while also fulfilling custom orders and creating all the goodies to sell at farmers markets.
Tragedy struck in May 2018 when Brady unexpectedly died at 23 after a brief illness. That’s when Bre Grant, Brady’s older sister who had introduced her to Strasser, moved back to the area from California. In addition to being business partners, Strasser and Brady were the best of friends, and Grant would report back to Strasser on her sister’s condition in the weeks leading up to her death.
“When KK was sick we never really thought she was going to die. I said to her ‘don’t worry, I’m going to help with Cowbell Kitchen’,” Grant recalled. “After KK died me and Cheryl just as friends talked a lot, and then I started helping out. Now we’re partners.”
“I think it’s kind of a really unique friendship Cher and I have,” she said. “We do Cowbell in KK’s memory. We’re very passionate about it. It was her dream to have a shop.”
In addition to keeping the restaurant running, Grant and her family began the Love, KK Foundation in memory of her sister. The goal is to support small businesses and farmers, both passions of Brady’s, and several initiatives have already reported great success.
Cowbell is now set to bring on its first intern in support of the mission of the foundation, Constance Pemberton. Pemberton, who is pursuing a degree in baking and pastry, will initially be rolling out vegan pastry boxes at the new shop, with all proceeds from its sales going back to the foundation.
A food drive run by the foundation has also been a success. Beginning directly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit stateside this spring, the foundation has supported two food pantries in the Leesburg and Lucketts area that feed 50 to 80 families a month, according to Lore Brady, KK’s mother and president of the foundation. Since April, the foundation has provided 1,595 pounds of produce, 85 dozen eggs, 279 pounds of cheese, 490 loaves of bread, and 95 quiches to the Faith Chapel Lucketts Community Food Pantry.
“What is unique about our farm and small business to food pantry is we use our funds raised through donations and grants to purchase food from farmers and small businesses and in turn supply the food to the food pantry,” Brady said, particularly singling out support through a CARES Act grant from the Town of Leesburg. “Cowbell is a huge help as they do all the ordering and accept delivery of the food. Love, KK picks up the delivered food and brings it to the pantry.”
In addition to Cowbell, Franklin Sustainable Farm, Lyon Bakery, South Mountain Creamery, and Teague Farm have all provided goods and support to the food drive.
Looking forward to their new space on King Street, Grant said the former insurance office has about the same square footage as Cowbell’s former Market Street space, but a better layout. As one can imagine, it’s been a comprehensive remodel to put a commercial kitchen into the building, she said. The completely open kitchen will allow visitors to see pastries and food in full production. The restaurant is meant to be more grab-and-go style, though a porch and back patio will offer ample outdoor seating when the weather allows.
For now, Cowbell has gotten out of the farmers market rotation, but has picked up wholesale accounts in the past few months. They will also continue to offer custom baked goods for weddings and special events.
Many of Cowbell’s fan favorite items, largely vegan and plant-based, will carry over to the new restaurant, but Grant said they are also looking to offer more meat products to the menu.
Hopes are to have the restaurant open to the public next week.