BATAVIA — For Dannielle Lumpkin, starting a restaurant in FreshLAB space in Eli Fish Brewing Company has been hectic, but possible with the help of family.
“My husband, the girls, we’re just like a team,” Lumpkin says. “Right now, we have volunteers. It’s just our family — my two oldest godchildren, my husband, and my girlfriend.”
Lumpkin said they’ve given Mama Dee’z a big support system. Danielle Lumpkin said getting ready has been very hectic.
“We’ve done a lot of moving, cleaning, shopping, learning systems, cooking,” she said.
Lumpkin said Mama Dee’z did a soft opening Friday that went very well.
“Just learning the ins and outs of going from catering to being a restaurant owner is a big difference. We’ve had a lot of support from all the kitchen staff here,” she said. “The head chef here, Sam, has been very helpful. Matty has been very helpful with anything that I needed to know. It’s a learning experience and I’m very excited for what the future holds for us.
“I’ve been cooking for 10 years. I’ve been doing catering out here in Batavia and in the area for about 3 1/2 years. I had a lot of support — that people who wanted to buy dinners and stuff. They wanted to be able to get food from me when they wanted it.”
The menu includes appetizers and starters, salads, burger and thangs, Mama Dee’z Plates, combos, entrees, sides, Kids Corner and desserts. The entrees are the Sweet and Sassy Chicken Mac and Cheese Bowl, shrinmp and gritz, chicken dinner, chicken and waffle, smother pork chops and wing diner.
Lumpkin said the effort to find a location began before COVID hit.
“Then, COVID hit. It was really rough. Once things started getting better, I felt it was that time, I felt like, for me to try to find something to open up,” she said. “Batavia doesn’t really have a lot of diversity when it comes to food and I wanted to be able to bring that to Batavia. We have a lot of mulatto families and a lot of mixed cultures. I think this is going to be a staple in Batavia, because we can offer a different choice of food from different cultures.”
Lumpkin said the FreshLAB provided space and equipment.
“We just came in, we cleaned and we prepared the things that we needed,” she said. “I brought some of my equipment that I needed and was able to successfully do the things we needed to do for our customers.”
Eli Fish owner Matt Gray adding Mama Dee’z has been great for the FreshLAB space.
“She’s coming into the spot that EDEN Cafe (& Bakeshop) was in and successfully transferred over into downtown at Ellicott Street and Liberty. It’s great to offer the same space again to another entrepreneur, restaurateur.”
Gray said Lumpkin had been in all week to get ready.
“She has fed the staff the entire time and the food is fantastic,” he said. “It really just adds another level of service for us.”
Eli Fish Brewing Company, Matty’s Pizza and Mama Dee’z now have kitchens in the building, Gray said.
“This (Mama Dee’z) will be the fifth restaurant that’s come through. For a very, very small amount of money upfront, they’re able to come in and really go after their dream, where normally it would cost upwards of more than six figures to buy your equipment and everything that you need to get stocked up, here it’s very minimal. They’re able to come in for a shorter period of time, work out what their business plan is, work out what kind of food do you really want to serve, what their guests are really looking for. Hopefully you make that leap to another brick-and-mortar location.”
Gray said he and the Eli Fish staff can assist along the way, such as with answering questions Mama Dee’z might have.
“There’s really a lot more to it (running a restaurant) than there used to be,” he said.
As to how long a restaurant is in FreshLAB, Gray said normally, there is a year to 18-month contract.
‘This one’s a little different. It’s a shorter time period,” he said of Mamma Dee’z. “She’ll be here a minimum of six months and then we’ll go from there.”
Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Shannon Maute said Lumpkin came to her saying she was looking for a grant to help open a business downtown.
“I said, ‘No matter what, I’m going to help you find a spot,’ because her personality and her drive, and the food we were talking about, I was like, ‘You’re going to do great,’” Maute said.
Maute said unfortunately, they looked into grant money and couldn’t find enough to make a significant difference.
“I contacted Matty (Gray) … I said, ‘What are the odds that you would still want to rent that out to her?’” she said. “He said, ‘Why don’t you come in, we’ll all sit down together.’”
Maute said Lumpkin has the passion for running a restaurant.
“Her food is fantastic. Her personality is great,” Maute said. “No matter what, she’s determined that she’s going to make it and I believe that she will.”
The hours for Mama Dee’z are the same as those of Eli Fish: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.