Local restaurateur and entrepreneur Martha Hoover wants to open kiosks offering healthy meals on the go in public places, including along the Monon Trail.
The concept cleared a hurdle last month when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded her trademark protection for the name that would adorn the kiosks: Trail Mix. The approved logo includes the tag line “Honest Fresh Fare by Patachou.”
Hoover, 59, opened her first restaurant, a Café Patachou, in 1989 and has grown the brand to include four locations. She also operates two Petite Chou bistros and three Napolese pizzerias.
Trail Mix is Hoover’s plan to expand the Patachou concept through a much smaller and less expensive investment—kiosks staffed and located in places such as airports and outdoor green spaces.
The Monon Trail, traipsed annually by scores of fitness enthusiasts, could be an ideal place to peddle juices, granola, salads and other healthy options that can be consumed on the go, Hoover said.
“We’re just beginning to figure this out,” she said. “I think it can be successful. And if not, we’ll let it go. We won’t belabor it.”
Hoover is unsure how many kiosks Trail Mix might comprise, though they likely would be limited to the metropolitan area.
Packaged products sold at the kiosks would be made and shipped from Hoover’s kitchen at the intersection of 49th Street and College Avenue. It supplies the Patachou restaurants daily with fresh, farm-to-table ingredients and menu items that struck a chord in Indianapolis before the concept was chic.
Hoover hopes to roll out Trail Mix sometime next year. In a related effort, she’s negotiating with a few distributors to sell Patachou’s granola outside the restaurants.
Situating kiosks along the 16-mile stretch of the Monon Trail, for instance, could take months to get approval from the cities of Carmel and Indianapolis, and perhaps even Westfield, where the trail was extended by 1-1/2 miles in 2008.
Hoover would be the first to operate a kiosk on the trail in Indianapolis. A spokeswoman for Indy Parks is unaware of any past requests.
The idea appeals to Steve Delaney, a restaurant broker at Sitehawk Retail Real Estate.
“I walk along [the Monon] a lot, and a lot of times I’m hungry or thirsty and there’s no place to go,” he said. “You don’t want to walk into a restaurant when you’re all sweaty.”
Hoover already has a lot on her plate that’s prohibiting her from spending a lot of time on Trail Mix.
She’s preparing to open her newest eatery, Public Greens, in Broad Ripple in July. On top of that, Hoover hopes to have a deal signed with Simon Property Group Inc. by the end of the year to help take her Napolese pizza chain national.
Public Greens is set to open in a vacant building at 64th Street and Cornell Avenue that resembles a train depot, also along the Monon Trail. Hoover is leasing the building from the city of Indianapolis, which received it as a gift from the original owners who operated a dress shop there.
She plans to offer Patachou-style soups, sandwiches and salads. But the twist is that profit will benefit Patachou Foundation, a not-for-profit Hoover established last year to provide after-school meals to children in need.
Her pursuit of a national expansion of Napolese is part of her business plan to add 20 restaurants outside of Indianapolis by 2020.
IBJ in January reported the discussions between Hoover and Simon, which are progressing.
“I think we’re on the same page,” she said. “It’s never going to go quickly when you’re dealing with the largest [real estate investment trust] in the world.”
Hoover’s idea for Trail Mix has been simmering since 2010, when she first filed for the trademark, according to federal documents. Following a few extensions, she received approval April 15.
Filing for a trademark typically costs about $300. How long it takes to gain the protection can vary widely, said Julia Gard, a partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s intellectual property practice, who does not represent Hoover.
“If everything goes swimmingly well, you can get your registration in nine to 12 months; that’s the fastest,” she said. “If you run into obstacles, I’ve had some that have lasted five years.”
Hoover’s latest trademark is among about two dozen she owns in her efforts to protect her restaurants from copycats.
In October, she sued the owner of newcomer Crust Pizzeria Napoletana in Carmel, claiming he stole the entire look of Napolese. The two sides ultimately reached an out-of-court settlement.
“I think it’s less expensive [to seek a trademark] than having your ideas ripped off,” Hoover said.•