Breaking Bread, Building Community
Lea Jones Hunt, ’13, Feeds Detroit
Gather aims to be more than just a restaurant. Tucked in a small storefront in the heart of Detroit’s Eastern Market district, it seeks to draw the community together through locally sourced food, an inviting atmosphere, and charity projects.
A marketing/management major at Hillsdale, Lea Jones Hunt, ’13, always wanted to own a business. Halfway through college, Kyle, her high school sweetheart and a student at Lake Superior State, suggested they start a restaurant. “I liked the idea,” Hunt recalls. They married after graduation and worked in California and Chicago before returning to their native Detroit, where they took jobs at Quicken Loans. Yet their dream of starting a restaurant remained a priority.
They knew they wanted to be in the Eastern Market district. “It’s the perfect blend of history, culture, and fresh food from the farmers market,” Hunt says. They found a building that had once housed a meatpacking shop and more recently an artist studio. “The building was in good shape, but we had to reconfigure it,” Hunt says.
Once they hired a chef, they held “pop-up” dinners in their apartment, experimenting with different menu items before the restaurant opened. It was during one of these dinners that Hunt coined the restaurant’s name. “I knew we should call it Gather,” she says. “We want guests to gather at the table, sharing food and conversation.”
Opened in May 2017, Gather offers a seasonal menu. Everything is made from scratch, and most ingredients come from Eastern Market vendors. To support the community, the Hunts began Burger Wednesdays, where guests can enjoy a $5 burger with a donation to that month’s Detroit-based charity.
Hunt finds her Hillsdale education helpful in meeting challenges. “My work in Professor King’s marketing classes gave me the confidence to plan and start a business,” she says. “And I often think back on Dr. Blackstock’s business ethics course.”
“We’re a genuine mom and pop business,” Hunt says. “We envision staying that way as we support our community.”
Printed in the Spring 2018 Alumni Magazine