To celebrate Farm to Fork Catering’s 10-year anniversary, owner Sherry Hurley is opening a cafe in a 115-year-old firehouse in the Portland neighborhood.
“The reason I wanted a storefront is because my favorite thing that I’ve ever done is to see someone, hand them something and hopefully they really enjoy it and they have a smile on their face. It makes me happy,” says Hurley, recalling the years she spent operating a booth at the Douglass Loop Farmers’ Market.
Hurley’s thriving catering business moved to Portland from a spot near the U of L campus in 2017, attracted by a larger space and the possibility of having a storefront. Hurley expects to be open Tuesdays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving baked goods, soups, salads, sandwiches, and wraps. She says the menu will change often, often serving extra items left over from catering jobs.
Hurley says she considered plenty of other locations, but the moment she stepped into the old firehouse at 2425 Portland Avenue, she was able to envision her long-awaited cafe.
“I’m a person who finds it hard to visualize anything, but when I walked in I could see the layout completely. This is the place,” she says.
Hurley grew up in Marshall County, in western Kentucky, where she learned about local food from her parents. Her mother cooked food from the family’s garden and her father was in sales for a food distributor. Members of her family operated roadside farm stands.
When she went to the University of Kentucky, she majored in marketing, but found jobs at local restaurants, beginning as a hostess. She later became the front-of-house manager at a restaurant focused on regional cuisine.
“Until you go away, you don’t realize that everyone doesn’t live the same way you do,” she says. “I grew up eating local food. My mom canned and froze and pickled. My dad started as security guard at a food distributor warehouse, but then they discovered his personality and put him in sales. I’d go to food shows with him and he’d bring home samples. We’re a family that loves food.”
Hurley’s career in local food blossomed when she began visiting local farmers’ markets, which led her to open her own business in 2008.
“When I moved to Louisville I discovered farmers markets,” she says. “I had finally found my community. People were selling things I had grown as a family. I found someone as excited about eggplant as I was. The people who shopped there were people who shared my values. I felt like I had this community I belonged to.”
In Portland, she is filling a real need for residents and visitors who want more local retail and places to have a meal. The building opened as a firehouse in 1903, and still has much of the original furnishings, including a wall of green brick. The spot on the floor where the fire trucks once parked is clearly marked.
“Not being from Louisville has its advantages,” she says. “I don’t have the stereotypes or associations that people who’ve lived here have. I didn’t know what the West End was. I didn’t know who the Binghams were, or the Browns.”
Hurley is excited about being in Portland and playing part in the area’s growth, along with existing food-related businesses like New Roots and Louisville Grows. She likes the growing number of nonprofits here, many headed by women. And she believes it is the perfect spot for her business.
“It’s a good community for me,” she says, noting her small-town roots. “The new businesses, artists, and nonprofits are forming a community. It’s a big small town, and there are a lot of people. It just felt right.”