A new restaurant and bar planned for downtown Dayton is gaining momentum, as the owners have secured financing, are finalizing the lease agreement and have unveiled a name that pays homage to a famous Daytonian.
Maria Walusis, chef-owner of Watermark restaurant and Nibbles Catering in Miamisburg, along with her husband Eric Walusis, who handles business operations, marketing and strategic development, have spent the last several months coming up with the concept for their new eatery on East Third Street, and will sign the lease later this week. The couple told me they now have a clear direction of where they want the restaurant to go, which plays into Dayton's history.
The restaurant-bar will be called "Paradox", which is the title of a poem by Dayton native Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar, a poet, novelist and playwright who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was born in Dayton in 1872 and died in 1906 at the age of 33.
The son of slaves, Dunbar was one of the first African-American writers to earn an international reputation. He also was a classmate and lifelong friend of the Wright brothers.
The Walusis' said they were drawn to Dunbar and his work, especially the Paradox poem. Eric Walusis says the poem epitomizes what they are trying to do with the restaurant.
"We want people to literally have a living experience of the idea of paradox," he said. "When you step into this space, it's old, it's new, it's modern but classic and electric. It's a paradox, but in a way it's also harmonic. Hopefully at the end of it all people will feel that when they come here."
To encapsulate the paradox idea, the restaurant will be outfitted with both modern touches and classic designs. This will be seen in everything from the decor and furnishings to the artwork and logo.
"It's all going to blend together to create something new," Eric Walusis said.
The paradox theme also will be found in the food menu. Maria Walusis said her menu will contain a mix of classic dishes with modern fare, and will run the gambit from American, French, Italian and other recipes found all over the world.
She said the menu will be unique, so anyone coming to Paradox will find something not found elsewhere in Dayton.
"I'm scouring every menu in the city, and I've already removed a few things because I don't want to do something that somebody else is doing three blocks away," she said. "I really want the food to stand out as something different from everyone else."
It's this uniqueness that will set Paradox a part from not only other restaurants, but from their own. The Walusis' emphasized their new eatery is completely separate from Watermark, with the only constant being Maria Walusis' cooking and ownership.
"There may be a little crossover at some point, but at the moment I don't have a single dish that is at both places," she said. "I want this to stand out as a completely separate entity."
Though they want the new restaurant to be different from everyone else, there will be some synergy with their neighbors. The Century Bar, which is moving next door to Paradox, will likely share customers as the bar does not serve food and will be open later than the restaurant. Additionally, the Walusis' said they will hold food events for Century. Paradox also will use some of the space Century vacated as a private dining area.
"It will be great because people can come over and park, have dinner here and then go right next door to Century for some bourbon," Maria Walusis said. "It's like one-stop entertainment."
Paradox will have its own entertainment, as live music is planned for Friday and Saturday nights. The establishment isn't planned as an ultra-late-night spot, but it will likely to stay open until at least midnight on the weekends and 11 p.m. on the weekdays. It will also be open for lunch during the week.
The Walusis' are hopeful Paradox will open by the end of 2019, though they do not have a firm opening date. There will likely be one or more soft openings before it launches for the public, and those dates should be announced in the coming months.
Moving forward, the Walusis' say there will be three major milestones to accomplish: finalizing the concept and drawings, the announcement of an opening date and menu reveal, and the grand opening. At the same time, construction and renovations to the historic structure will continue.
Though an opening date has yet to be announced, the project is gaining momentum and will eventually serve as a key component within a larger initiative in downtown Dayton.
Columbus-based The Windsor Companies is redeveloping the mostly vacant Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton into a mix of commercial, housing and office space. The first phase of the project is $50 million, and additional phases are planned for the future.
The new restaurant will occupy a first floor spot in The Elks Building, located on the corner of South Jefferson and East Third streets. It will join other establishments in the Fire Blocks District, which at this point include loft-style apartments, an activity bar, Bodega-style grocery and other entities that have yet to be announced.
While some details of the restaurant and broader Fire Blocks project are still being worked out, the Walusis' say they are excited to be a part of the downtown revitalization, and look forward to contributing to its resurgence.
"We've put everything we have into this — financially, physically, mentally — so we are really doing this," Maria Walusis said. "We're all in."
The Walusis' said they were... (read the rest of the article here)