By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON — On Monday, The Alcove Restaurant will close for renovations. Given its long-standing history as an anchor in the downtown area, the nature of those renovations has sparked widespread interest among local residents.
Kurt Schisler, speaking on behalf of owner Karen Wright and others involved in coordinating the design, finance and construction aspects of the renovation, said the redesign is geared toward fitting the building and architecture rather than toward attracting a particular age group or type of clientele.
“You always want to attract the younger generation, but the design is not going to be geared toward attracting the 30- to 40-year-old generation. We want to keep our current clientele as well as attract new,” he said. “Karen's taste is more traditional-type architecture. Karen cares a lot about architecture and the look of the building. She is very mindful of the purpose of the building and the look it should have.”
The fate of the murals on the interior walls in the downstairs dining area have generated comments on social media. Schisler said that the ones that can be incorporated into the new design will remain.
“From our perspective, the murals are paintings of historical photographs and buildings, but the murals themselves are not historical items,” he said, adding that the original photographs are available in the historical society museum. “There are some [murals] that are going to go, but before anything is done, we are going to have a photographer come in and photo document all of them. If someone wants a print of one of them, they'll be available.
“I know it's a concern for people,” he continued. “We're doing our best to preserve what people deem important and are concerned about, and, at the same time, try and remodel it as best we can.”
The Alcove murals have been the backdrop for fine dining at the restaurant for many years - KP Photo
In addition to new wall coverings, the lighting on the first floor will be changed, the bar area opened up and the hostess stand moved closer to the front door. “That front area will also include some dining area, so someone who peeks into the windows will realize it's a restaurant,” he said.
Upstairs, the restrooms will become ADA compliant and the bar area updated. Schisler said those involved with the renovation have been proactive in discovering what the building needs and have asked employees to identify the “pain points” they are aware of that need changed.
The menu will be revamped as well, although Schisler could not give specific details as it is a “work in progress” at this point. “It's possible there will be changes by season to the menu; it's not going to be a set menu and that's it for 12 months a year,” he said. “I could envision, depending on the time of the year and what's in season, showcasing some of that stuff in the menu on a season-by-season basis.”
Using products from local growers may be an option once the menu becomes formalized. “It would definitely be nice to utilize as much local as we can, but not knowing the menu and not having that finalized, not knowing our needs and not researching the availability of the different items, it's kind of up in the air at this point,” he said.
In the area of service and hospitality, the group will seek the help of Columbus-based restauranteer Cameron Mitchell. “As part of the shut-down and renovation, we're going to use that as an opportunity to train the staff, and his group is going to be involved in the training,” said Schisler.
Schisler anticipates the restaurant to reopen in time for the Christmas season. “We have a definite start date and a desired end date, and we're going to have to be fluid in between to try and hit that final date,” he said. “Ideally, we would be open for the Christmas parade and walk. Alternatively, the first week in December.”
Service clubs will meet in the old Candyland building next door to The Alcove until renovations are complete. Schisler said all existing commitments will be honored either at Candyland or some other location.