Downtown Carson City businesses plan big changes
May 25, 2016
Construction on 3rd and Carson streets is bringing more than just a new pedestrian plaza to downtown.
Restaurants surrounding the upcoming Bob McFadden Plaza are changing, too, both to cope with the disruption to their business while the space is being built and in anticipation of a new public venue right outside their doors.
Doug Cramer, owner, Mom & Pop's Diner, for example, is launching a new farmers market in June. Firkin & Fox has leased parking to make up for 21 spaces lost to the construction and moved its popular patio seating to a grassy spot, all on the south side of the St. Charles Hotel building. And Comma Coffee owner June Joplin decided all the work outside was a good opportunity to make big changes inside, too.
Q&D Construction Inc. broke ground on the plaza in March and started with utility work, where they ran into a few surprises including several underground gas and heating oil tanks.
The plaza's 36-foot permanent concert stage is halfway done and the city says the entire plaza, which is going to include the stage, a water feature and seating, is to be completed by mid-July.
In the meantime, it hasn't been easy on the nearby eateries.
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"When it's done it is going to be fantastic," said Jim Phalan, owner, Firkin & Fox. "But getting there is very painful."
Both Phalan and Cramer say their lunchtime business is down by half.
"Monday we had six to seven tables for lunch," said Phalan.
Both owners have placed large "open for business" banners on their buildings after customers told them they thought the restaurants were closed during construction.
And they're changing things up.
On June 1, Cramer is opening a Wednesday evening farmers market on Curry Street between 4th and 3rd streets and keeping the diner open until 8 p.m. then for the first time in years.
"The whole thing started when I had to figure out what to do with the plaza going in," he said. "A few people said to me 'Are you going to be open at night?'"
Cramer has hired Lake Tahoe Markets, owned and operated by Steve Rozier, which runs farmers markets in Incline Village and Kahle Community Park near Zephyr Cove, to manage the new market.
The market will be open Wednesdays from 4-8 p.m. and Mom & Pops will add a few entrees to its menu as well as beer, wine and liquor to stay open for dinner.
The plan will be to expand the diner's hours to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, once the plaza opens, said Cramer.
The market will open on the one block of Curry and expand onto the plaza as it grows.
Cramer said vendors will include farmers, crafters and fine arts works.
Rozier said the market will feature several farmers not at the nearby Saturday market, which will start June 4, including RHJ Organic from Watsonville, Calif., and Schletewitz Family Farms, a stone fruit farmer in Fresno.
Cramer is only expecting a handful of vendors to start but is confident it's going to grow, just like the farmers market Bob McFadden started there more than 20 years ago.
"The farmers market then started off small and grew to take over the (Marv Teixeira) Pavilion," said Cramer. "Eventually we'll take over 4th Street, too."
Firkin & Fox's Phalan thinks the plaza stage, which faces north, should have been built facing northeast.
"But we'll make the stage work, absolutely," he said.
He'd like to host weekly Friday night concerts there starting July 8, but said he can't get a commitment from the city on if it will be available then.
The city is working on the policy for booking the plaza for concerts, parties and other events, said Roger Moellendorf, director, Parks, Recreation & Open Space.
He said the venue will be unique but the policy will be similar to reserving other spaces in the city.
Phalan is also looking forward to getting a bigger and better patio back. It was torn down to make way for the plaza, but will be reconstructed by Q&D four feet bigger on its north side in order to comply with American with Disabilities Act requirements.
Comma Coffee, which is south of the plaza and not directly affected by the construction, has actually seen a bump in business, according to Joplin.
"It's unexplainable, but we've been busier," she said.
Joplin last week just finished remodeling her kitchen and in June plans to start offering a "light, night time" menu.
Next year, after the downtown project is complete, she's probably going to revamp the courtyard between her building and the St. Charles Hotel.
"We're embracing this," she said. "Change is good."