GRETNA — When she was 8 years old, Kate Blair Farmer started her first business making and selling hair bows. Then in college she designed monogrammed gifts, like handbags and belts.
While she did imagine herself starting more businesses down the road, she never foresaw her current endeavor. Just three weeks ago, she opened her third Gretna business. A space that functions as a mix between a coffee shop, restaurant and cafe, The Pod in downtown Gretna connects to Sweet Pea’s Lighting and Decor, a light decoration shop that opened last September.
In a building that was a tractor dealership before it was a car dealership, Farmer created a space that combines healthy food options, coffee and a comfortable atmosphere conjoined with a lighting and decoration store.
“The goal is for this to be an experience,” Kate Farmer said.
After growing up in Gretna and spending time in North Carolina and Texas, Kate Farmer decided to move back to Gretna about 10 years ago, knowing that the quality of life and culture were slower than what she had grown used to. Not long after, she married her husband, Ben, a board of supervisors representative for the Callands-Gretna district.
“We loved the people here ... so we chose to make this our home,” she said as she started to tear up.
Working with Revitalization for a Greater Gretna, an organization dedicated to beautification projects in the area, both Kate and Ben Farmer feel passionately about doing whatever they can to improve the quality of life and encourage businesses downtown.
“She has a great vision for what the needs are in our community,” Ben Farmer said of his wife.
Kate Farmer said she and her husband had the idea to open a restaurant in downtown Gretna two years ago.
“Gretna has a lot of great restaurants, but we needed something that was a little more intimate,” she said. “It was more out of a need than it was out of a desire to own a restaurant.”
But that idea was on hold while they continued to operate Blairs Construction, a residential construction company with offices right down the road from the Pod, and worked to open Sweet Pea in September 2018.
Using inspiration from family and friends, Farmer developed her own recipes for healthy and fresh eating options. The menu includes coffee from Callands Coffee and a variety of appetizers to go along with soups, salads, sandwiches and fresh desserts.
A section of the restaurant for children includes books and games, while another back room is to soon be converted into a wine room, where they will serve bottles of wine and craft beers.
With three businesses on their plates, the Farmers keep busy. Kate Farmer said she works 80 hour weeks, arriving before the restaurant opens at 7 a.m. and stays until after it closes at 7 p.m.
Their kids, ages 4 and 6, come before and after school, often doing their homework at the counter.
Ben Farmer works a full-time job and is a partial owner at The Pod, where he said his main role is to help wash dishes.
“We’re having a blast,” Kate Farmer said.
Derick Simpson has already established himself as a regular at The Pod. When he went to school in Lynchburg, he became accustomed to having a large number of coffee shop options, something that couldn’t be said of Gretna.
“I just feel like this is something Gretna needed,” he said.
For him, The Pod serves as a great place to drink coffee and get work done or bring his family. His wife loves the food and his 4-year-old son enjoys the play area.
“Everybody gets something they want out of it,” he said.
Kate Farmer is excited to see developments and increased options in downtown Gretna.
“The town’s starting to get a little flavor again,” she said.
Alexis Ehrhardt, president and CEO of the Danville Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce, said she is excited about the impact this business can make on Gretna’s “thriving Main Street.”
“The chamber looks forward to continuing to support The Pod, Sweet Pea’s and Blair Homes, as each contributes to our community’s job growth, economic vitality and quality of life,” she said.
Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.