Lil Duck Kombucha is growing. The West Columbia shop will open a cafe that features health-focused food to pair with its large range of fermented drinks.
The new cafe will be part of its existing retail shop and fermentation room at 1119 Methodist Park Rd. The cafe is set to open May 3 and will feature items like a BLT with avocado on sprouted bread and salads made with kombucha-base dressings.
“I grew up in a restaurant, my dad had restaurants,” owner Debey Hancock said. “So that’s kind of in my blood. I enjoy creating and I love beautiful food.”
Hancock is focused on making the cafe’s offerings approachable regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences. She emphasized there would be gluten-free options, along with locally sourced and organic items. The prices will range between $6 for avocado toast and $12.95 for a half-pound burger.
The main cafe space is outdoors, residing in an attached elevated porch that has seating for 22, with room for 16 more outdoors on the ground level. Hancock and her husband Will plan to expand to indoor seating in the current, first floor retail space, with hopes to open that by the end of June.
“We just want to be able to allow people to enjoy themselves and eat well and not worry about if there’s something there that I can eat,” she said.
Lil Duck Kombucha sprouted out of necessity six years ago. Hancock’s daughter had been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She sought to find her a drink that was healthy and tasted good and landed on kombucha.
She began to brew it in oak barrels — to lend a mellowing effect to the drink’s signature vinegar flavor — and, over time, let friends and others try it. Soon Emile DeFelice, the founder of the weekly Soda City Market on Main Street, tried it and invited her to begin selling it there.
“Six years later here I am. It really grew legs and ran,” she said.
Lil Duck opened in its current space only days before the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hancock admitted it’s been a difficult year. The public health crisis, though, inspired her a belief that people needed healthier options to eat than what is widely available in the area.
“We were born out of necessity,” Hancock explained. “We saw a need and we answered the call.”
With the new cafe, she doesn’t expect to see the business’ kombucha program grow, at least not in terms of flavors or other in-house aspects. She is hopeful, though, that the new cafe could help in other ways.
“I think it will lend more awareness for people who haven’t heard of it before when they’re looking for a new place to eat,” Hancock said. “They get a different introduction that way.”
The cafe will feature at least two kombucha on tap that are not found anywhere else, and will rotate frequently between different flavors, she said.