Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Restaurant coming to Davidson

Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House coming to Stowe’s Corner
By David Boraks
DavidsonNews.net

Tim Goody, Chad Hollingsworth and Mike LaVecchia plan to open Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House in the Stowe's Corner building in Davidson.

One of Charlotte’s top chefs and two business partners on Wednesday announced plans for a restaurant in the new Stowe’s Corner building downtown, to be called The Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House.

Tim Groody, the former executive chef at Sonoma and chef/owner of Pie Town, is joining forces with food industry veterans Michael LaVecchia and Chad Hollingsworth to develop the new eatery, which they say could be open by summer.

The restaurant will occupy the ground floor of the $4.5 million, 21,000-square-foot Stowe building, which replaced a gas station and has altered the streetscape at South and South Main streets downtown. The partners say they hope it will become “a neighborhood spot” the town and residents can be proud of.

The only question now is how The Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House will alter the local dining scene.

FRESH AND LOCAL

Groody describes himself as a champion of the “Farm to Fork” movement and a fan of local foods and farmer’s markets. He said he’s excited to be in Davidson, with the Davidson Farmers Market nearby and residents who share his passion for local ingredients. He promises a menu of creative, locally-focused dishes.

“It’s just going to be real simple, comfort food, on maybe a more creative level,” Groody said. He’s already planning a signature dish: a Wagyu Flatiron steak. And the restaurant also will serve fresh seafood.

“We want people to feel comfortable about what they can order, and we’re just going to get the best product, whether it be local, or whether it be Michael’s ability to find the best cuts of meat,” Groody said.

Groody came to Charlotte in 1997 after working at restaurants in New York, Napa Valley and Raleigh. He also can be seen regularly on WBTV in Charlotte.

LaVecchia is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and a longtime business partner of Mr. Hollingsworth. Over the past decade they have built the successful Charlotte-based wholesaler Seafoods.com.

LaVecchia said it’s a good time to make a move. “Our company’s strong and mature and we’ve got a great management team in place,” he said. “This was a good time for us to kind of get out and cut our teeth and get back into the restaurant thing.”

TOP ARCHITECT

Designing the new space will be Wagner Murray Architects. The Charlotte firm has designed a string of winners on Charlotte’s restaurant scene, from LaVecchia’s Seafood Grille downtown to Upstream at Phillips Place to Harper’s at Southpark. The firm, headed by David Wagner, also designed the Carolina Panthers’ football stadium.

“Whether he (Wagner) is the common element or not, he’s been able to deliver spaces in Charlotte that have produced,” Hollingsworth said. “So we’re really fortunate to have him on board. We’re tapping into his expertise, both from a design element, but also from delivering a package that makes sense for the market that we have up here.”

The market – Davidson – is one that has grown more slowly and been planned more deliberately than the towns around it over the past two decades. It has retained its small-town feeling and sense of community.

Said Groody: “It’s an ideal location for what I do with food. I’m really into farmers’ markets, and just that small community kind of feeling. … and having (Davidson Farmers Market) right there is great.”

The 2-year-old Davidson Farmers Market meets weekly from May to October in an area off Main Street, next to Town Hall, just a hundred yards from where the Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse will be. It also hosts a twice-monthly winter tailgate market as well and has helped promote local food in the region.

SIXTY BEERS?

Speaking of Taphouse: That’s another element in the partners’ concept. Hollingsworth said the The Flatiron plans to keep 24 beers on tap. They’ll also have bottled beers, for a total of 40 to 60 varieties, as well as wines, a full bar and signature cocktails.

“We want it to be a gathering place, we want it to be a place where people can feel comfortable to come and sit with their family and friends and really be part of the community,” Hollingsworth said.

“You will get a very warm reception in Davidson, I assure you,” Mayor John Woods told him and his partners during an informal gathering at the building this week. “This location has all the potential to be the greatest restaurant location.”

LONG TIME COMING

This week’s announcement of the new restaurant answers a question that has lingered since as far back as 2007, when developer David Stewart first unveiled his plans for the former Stowe’s Exxon site: What might occupy the ground-floor restaurant space.

Davidson resident Michael Orlando and other local investors bought the space from Stewart and have been shopping it around for nearly two years. In this economy, and amid concerns about parking, it hasn’t been an easy sell. The Stowe building’s second floor is leased to Baybridge Management, a health care management company, and Cocoon Salon. Stewart is still seeking a buyer for the third floor.

Groody, LaVecchia and Hollingsworth worked out a lease with the investors that will allow construction to begin as early as March. That could lead to an opening as early as June, Lavecchia said.

Davidson Downtown Director Sandy Lemons, who helped court Lavecchia and his partners for more than a year, said, “This is a really big day for Davidson.”

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