Location and timing didn’t seem to work out for Smokin Bowls, but the owners aren’t giving up on the concept or the location.
The fast-casual bowl themed restaurant at 449 Main Street in Longmont closed at the beginning of this month, but owner Sean Gafner said the idea is only being put on the backburner temporarily. In the meantime, Gafner plans to expand the bakery that was already operating in the back of Smokin Bowls.
“Basically it's just following the needs — kind of what we’ve always done in Longmont,” said Gafner, who also owns The Roost, Jefe’s Tacos and Tequila and Swaylo’s Tiki Restaurant and Bar with his wife and business partner, Rebecca Gafner. “We definitely have a need to expand the bakery that we’re already doing.”
Smokin Bowls opened in August 2019 and was doing well up until the first COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020. The restaurant closed for four months, reopened for three months and then closed for another five.
Smokin Bowls reopened in April 2021 with lunch-only service, mainly due to staffing challenges.
“We just had to keep it kind of small and just do lunch and run it with minimal staff because our other restaurants needed all of our staff,” he said.
Additionally, Gafner found that the location didn’t lend itself well to the fast-casual concept. With 24 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Smokin Bowls was his first experiment with fast casual.
“I realized it has to be a lot more convenient to get to than it was there,” Gafner said. “We still love the concept and are hoping to find maybe something with a drive thru in the future because that’s how fast we have it set up to be.”
Gafner said the hope is to revamp Smokin Bowls sometime next year, though that depends on a number of factors. Ideally the location would be somewhere with more traffic as well as a drive thru, like Ken Pratt or Hover streets.
In the meantime, Gafner and his team are working on expanding the bakery, led by pastry chef Shelley Katz. The bakery makes desserts, ice creams and bread for the Gafners’ other three restaurants.
The bakery, which will be called Chef Shelley’s Wholesale Bakery, will also offer wholesale goods to other Longmont restaurants as a fresh and local option. The Smokin Bowls space will be transformed into a customer-facing bakery.
There’s still plenty of work to do on that side of things, Gafner explained, with design work, recipe experimentation and staff expansion.
“We’re taking our time, but I would say (the bakery will open) in the next few months,” he said.