What is a “food hall” exactly? Nixa now has one

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 7:33 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2023 at 6:13 PM CDT
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NIXA, Mo. (KY3) - The 14 Mill Market in Nixa will open on Tuesday, June 13 in Nixa with a unique food service.

Located on Highway 14 on the site of a former mill (hence the name), the business consists of a large open bar-and-seating area with small local food vendors lined around the perimeter in a setting that would remind you of a food court at the mall. But there’s also the vibe of a farmers market and food trucks because most of the ten vendors come from those places and offer unique cuisine emphasizing healthy natural ingredients.

The current vendors include Liege Love Waffle Company, Mo Slider Company, Sno Biz, Lindsay’s Kitchen and Bistro, Notcho Ordinary Taco, Abby’s Acai Company, Queen City Soul Kitchen, D’Vine Delicatessen, Fresh Poke and Pie Paradiso.

The husband-and-wife team of Rich and Leah Callahan are the co-owners of 14 Mill Market and explained that the business is what’s known as a “food hall” around the country.

“Even though it’s a growing concept around the United States, there’s not too many in rural areas,” explained Rich. “Usually, they’re in an urban downtown big city. This is the first one in southwest Missouri.”

“We came up with the concept of developing a food hall based on a trip we took to Tulsa, Oklahoma,” added Leah. “We visited the Mother Road Market and really didn’t know what a food hall was at the time. But when we walked in, we knew immediately we wanted to do that.”

The small, individually-owned food services have a year-long lease at 14 Mill Market and may stay longer. But Rich and Leah do expect turnover and say 22 other vendors are on a waiting list to move in.

“The unique part of a food hall is that it has no large franchises and no fast food per se,” Rich pointed out. “They’re chef-inspired kitchens, and they’re all local. We have Abby’s Acai, which started in a food truck. Lindsay’s bakery and bistro started at the farmers market, and she worked out of her own kitchen.”

“This is actually our first commercial space,” said Lindsay Kirtlan of her 14 Mill Market space.

Her venture started four years ago with 25 pounds of flour she mistakenly ordered online to make her husband a chocolate cake for his birthday. She started making everything she could from scratch to get rid of the excess flower, including cakes, cookies, pancakes, and biscuits. Realizing she enjoyed the work, Lindsay began selling chicken pot pies and cinnamon rolls, and from there, her business was born as she now makes all kinds of made-from-scratch treats.

She admits the move into a brick-and-mortar space is a step of faith.

“It’s terrifying!” she said with a laugh.

But she was drawn to the 14 Mill Market because of its unique business model.

“It’s different from a food court at a mall,” Lindsay said. “It’s a lot more trendy. You’re not going to find a Chic-fil-A here. In a food hall, you’ll only find locally-sourced vendors. I try to use local sources anytime I can. Our honey, for instance, is Route 66, honey. Our coffee comes from Ozark. And everything we make is completely natural. We don’t use artificial flavoring in anything. It’s just like the way your grandma made it.”

On Thursday, the market had a soft opening for family and friends, and Mollie Wilson drove over 20 minutes from Springfield to check out the new concept.

“It’s beautiful, and what I really love about it is I have two little ones, and they, along with my husband and I, always want different things to eat,” she said. “So I like the idea of being able to come here and get something my little ones will enjoy and something I really want to have, thanks to the different choices available. It is definitely family-friendly.”

The land the mill sits on has quite a history in Nixa. Located just two blocks from Main Street, it was once the home of a log cabin and one of the first hand-dug wells in town before a mill was built on the site in 1958 that had two separate owners over the years.

Now with its food and outdoor area that will allow for games and concerts, Rich and Leah hope it will also become a community gathering place for people from across the area.

“We have a 500-square-foot conference room where people can have bridal showers, wedding rehearsal dinners, meetings, luncheons, Christmas parties, just any kind of special event,” Leah said. “And that’s what a community needs. An intimate space where you can be comfortable. If this can be a place where people start their day or end their day in a relaxing way, then we’ve done the right thing.”

“We wanted to have something that would bring in people from Springfield, Nixa, Republic, and Ozark to just hang out,” Rich added. “It will have live entertainment on the weekends and different outdoor games available. We’ve already had people say they’re coming from Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma to see this venue. So we’re excited to bring this to Nixa.”

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