Barron resident Lisa Armstrong took her love of cooking, combined it with the energy to make a dream come true – after a lengthy illness – and came up with The Porch, a lunchtime restaurant that shares space with Jerry’s Flowers & Gifts, 136 S. 14th St., Suite 136, Barron.
The business opened during December 2018. After taking a break for the holidays, The Porch reopened for the new year on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. Armstrong said the business is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. four days per week, including Monday and Wednesday through Friday.
She said customers can phone in orders after 9 a.m. on a land line, (715) 637-6300). The Porch offers an assortment of soups, panini sandwiches, hot dishes and, in summer, salads with local produce and fresh herbs, Armstrong said Friday, Dec. 28, 2018.
“It will be seasonal stuff,” she said. “Comfort food now and, as we get toward summer, some produce with herbs and veggies incorporated into (the menu).”
Armstrong and Sylvia Emerson, owner of Jerry’s Flowers & Gifts, will operate their businesses in a common area of retail space.
“Sylvia is my aunt,” Armstrong said. “I had worked for her for about seven years.”
Armstrong said she and Emerson had talked about a combined business.
“We always thought it would be cool to combine this kind of business with the flowers. Other places do it and it seems to work well – come in, have lunch or coffee, and do flowers.”
The daughter of retired Barron residents Maynard and Erma Haynes, Armstrong grew up on two farms that her parents owned, the first near Barron and, later outside Brill in northeastern Barron County.
“My mom was an excellent cook but she preferred barn chores – and I love to cook,” she said. “So, I made the suppers, and she’d go to the barn to work.”
Armstrong said she began planning her business several years ago, compiling a list of recipes in notebooks that she kept at home.
But there were a pair of lengthy illnesses that forced her to postpone her plans.
The first time she got sick, Armstrong started a home-based business on the Etsy website, selling personalized T-shirts. But she later shut down the site after she became ill a second time.
Armstrong said the bouts with illness made her resolve to make her restaurant business a reality.
She put together a business plan, set up the finances, and contacted Dave Armstrong (no relation), director of the Barron County Economic Development Corporation, for some additional help.
“He was a huge proponent of the idea of following dreams and seeing this through,” Armstrong said. “I honestly don’t know if I’d have had the nerve to do this if not for him.”
The Porch has seating at tables scattered across a portion of what used to be part of the display floor at Jerry’s Floral & Gifts. Food is prepared in a kitchen that was remodeled from an old storage area. Customers can order at a counter fronted with corrugated tin. Food is prepared in a powerful microwave oven
“We have no stove and hood system, so we had to work with the inspector to see what we can and can’t cook,” Armstrong said. “There are no burgers or fried foods!”
But there are home-cooked recipes.
“We served cheesy chicken and potato casserole last Friday (Dec. 21), and it was a hit,” she said. “We also have chili soup. My son loves to eat it.”
Armstrong lives in Barron along with her husband, Sherman, and 6-year-old son, Ryder.