There's a small place on West Lee Street that offers lunch a few hours a day, a few days a week, but the people behind the counter know it's got big potential.
Since March, The Hummus People has served customers hummus and paninis made at their shop at 305 W. Lee St., Athens. Before that, their hummus could only be found at local farmers markets and outselling national brands in select grocery stores throughout North Alabama and Tennessee.
But Allison Woltmann and husband Colin wanted more for Lee Street.
"Really, we were at a point where we're trying to go forward with the business, and every avenue we were taking is kind of the general next step, and it didn't feel right. It felt hollow," Woltmann said.
Woltmann said they surveyed the community and realized it was missing something — a couple things, actually. First, a place where local original artists could introduce their music to the community and larger acts could hold intimate "micro shows" between tour stops in Huntsville, Birmingham or Nashville.
Second, a place where people like the Woltmanns could hone their skills and turn a hobby of cooking into a profitable small business. The Woltmanns used $20 in 2014 to make a batch of hummus to sell at the farmers market. They have learned a lot and worked hard to build The Hummus People up from there, and they want to help others do the same.
Allison Woltmann said the dream could be achieved on Lee Street, but the funds to bring the "Positively Lee Street" concept to life aren't there — yet. To that end, The Hummus People announced an "all or nothing" crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 by Jan. 1, 2020.
"The money would completely redesign our space," Woltmann said. "We have to redesign our space, set up the stage and make some adjustments to our kitchen to provide what we need for our program."
The renovations would also provide for extended hours, space for dine-in customers and an expanded menu with baked goods, coffee and more from other local food businesses. The campaign is running through Kickstarter. Donations can be made in varying amounts from as little as $5 to as much as $1,000, with incentives along the way.
For example, pledging $15 earns one a "Make Your Own Luck" or "Hummus Monster" bumper sticker; $30 is worth one of two posters, one of four T-shirts or a Hummus People Fab Four Sampler Pack featuring one 4-ounce package each of the Classy Classic, Roasted Garlic Marsala, Memphis Black Bean and Spicy Voodoo Jalapeno hummus flavors; and those who pledge $250 or more can get two VIP tickets to an intimate acoustic show with appetizer and dinner for two, a limited-edition signed poster and two goodie bags to take home after the show.
If they reach their goal, Woltmann said the new and improved space could be opened as soon as March 2020.
"I think this place has the potential to do everything we're talking about," Woltmann said. "Especially with the micro shows, I think it's going to be better keeping it small than making it larger."
She described it as "watching your favorite musician at a house party." The shows will be open to 20–30 people, making it ideal for big-name acts that want to host small meet-and-greet acoustic shows and for local artists looking to broaden their hometown fanbase. Woltmann said they've already been in touch with a few artists, and others are welcome to reach out.
"Our location is so great, being on (Interstate) 65," Woltmann said. "We would like to create a music series where we film (the shows), maybe start with a YouTube channel that could grow into something bigger and work as (public relations) for musicians as they work on that base."
Because it's an "all or nothing" campaign, those who pledge a donation won't be charged until The Hummus People reach the full $20,000 goal. In other words, a pledge of $100 won't have to be paid unless others pledge the remaining $19,900 before midnight Jan. 1.
Anyone with questions about the crowdfunding campaign or Positively Lee Street can visit https://bit.ly/38o0RTy to view an informational video produced by Woltmann or reach out to The Hummus People. Visit facebook.com/thehummuspeople/ to connect online. Their retail location is currently open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays with most lunch items in the $5.99 to $7.99 range.