Burlington is home not only to Opportunities Credit Union, but also to a myriad of cultures due to its large immigrant and refugee population. Opportunities has helped many new Vermonters with its “Coming to America” loan, but rarely does it get such a perfect chance to promote culture while helping a small business owner secure their first loan.
Kortnee Bush provided us with this opportunity. Owner of Butch + Babe’s in the Old North End of Burlington, VT, Kortnee has a strong background in the food industry that makes her the perfect owner to a restaurant so rich in history and culture.
Named after her maternal grandparents, with décor honoring their heritage, Butch + Babe’s offers an eclectic menu that mixes Chicago-comfort food with exotic flavors from Thailand, Korea, Africa, and beyond.
Kortnee, who went to The French Culinary Institute in New York City (now renamed the International Culinary Center), comes from a Chicago family with over 40-years of experience in the catering world.
“I grew up in the industry,” said Kortnee. “My family did banquets and catering back in Chicago. I think it’s just something that’s in your blood. Returning to the restaurant industry was this thing that was always in the back of my head.”
Ironically, Kortnee always pictured herself opening up a breakfast and lunch establishment. However, according to Kortnee, Butch + Babe’s caters best to a dinner crowd, as there is little foot traffic during the day on North Winooski Avenue. Yet she was excited to be a pioneer and develop a menu that fits the neighborhood’s cultural pallet and unique needs.
Former colleague, Bangkok native, and now head Chef of Butch + Babe’s, Narin Phanthakhot, worked to assist Kortnee in establishing a menu that fits the Old North End community.
“The surroundings really dictated what we did here”, said Kortnee. “I like having a menu that is a little bit of a reflection of the folks who live in the neighborhood.”
Combining her Chicago-heritage and experience as both a lunch lady at the Burlington School Food Project and her time as a culinary educator at the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, Kortnee developed a strong business plan that caters to her strengths, and to the city itself.
“At Butch + Babe’s, you’re able to try something from a different culture, but in a safe atmosphere where you can still get a burger” said Kortnee. “It’s not a new fangled idea; it’s just representing what’s happening in the neighborhood”
This was a business plan that Opportunities Credit Union could get behind. After working together with Business Development Manager, Greg Huysman, Butch + Babe’s opened its doors on December 26, 2014 and has already experienced a very successful year.
When asked if she would work with Opportunities again, Kortnee quickly stated “Absolutely.”
If you are interested in learning more about Opportunities’ small business loans, contact Greg Huysman today at 654-4540 x113.