Crestwood aldermen want to hear from all applicants in line for the vacant Sappington Barn space before they choose a new tenant.
The board tabled a decision last month to choose one of eight possible operators, asking the city’s park board to submit their top choices in time for the Board of Aldermen’s Sept. 11 meeting. A committee of representatives from the park board, Sappington House Foundation, and library trust narrowed their choices to three: a second location for , which is based in Richmond Heights; The Sappington House Restaurant, a dinner spot from the manager of a Sunset Hills restaurant; or a new breakfast and lunch concept called The Barn.
Aldermen held short question and answer sessions with Karen Mott, of The Barn, and Mike Mathes, for Sappington House Restaurant. Despite a strong recommendation from members of the Sappington House and library foundations in favor of The Barn, aldermen would like to hear from representatives of Fozzie’s, who were not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
Dana Jones, a trustee of the Sappington House Library of Americana Trust told aldermen he hoped the trust’s recommendation would carry more weight.
“We’re spending the money over there, and I think it’s important that whoever’s selected has the full embrace and support of the trust, and the foundation,” he said. Jones “doesn’t buy” an annual revenue projection of $1 million for Fozzie’s, and said The Barn concept fits the space best.
Karen Mott’s concept utilizes a ‘farm to table’ approach, would offer breakfast and lunch “using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local and regional vendors, as available.” She’s also proposed special events ranging from a monthly cocktail hour to comedy nights.
Mott, who currently lives in North Carolina, said she’d like her space to become a “community living room,” where residents would utilize as a meetingplace as well as dine. She said she’d like to offer non-profit groups a chance to use her space for free, when possible.
Mott plans to reach out to nearby communities to grow her customer base, including Kirkwood and Webster Groves.
“Crestwood alone cannot support this restaurant,” she said.
She believes she can make around $200,000 each year, which would require around 100 customers each day of business, she estimates.
Mike Mathes, who’s pitching The Sappington House Restaurant, has experience overseeing a number of food service operations, including the Sunset Hills . He said he’d like to cultivate a space with afternoon teas, wine and cheese events, as well as other community offerings.
In addition to his experience with area customers, Mathes is interested in the space because “Crestwood doesn’t have many restaurants,” he said.
Mathes would like to try his hand at an outdoor market like Webster Groves. Pumpkin patches and a Christmas tree lot were also proposed in his submittal to the city.
Still, Ward III Alderman Jerry Miguel said he’d like to hear from Fozzie’s, which is the only established business among the three submissions. Ward III Alderman Paul Duchild agreed that the city should have extended invitations to all three applicants.
Mathes and Mott attended Tuesday's meeting on their own volition. No applicants were present during the Board of Aldermen’s last meeting on the topic, but Ward IV Alderman Daniel Tennessen said representatives from all three businesses were available during the park board meeting.
At the close of the park board meeting, applicants were not made aware who had been recommended for the 'top three,' he said.
Mathes emphasized he understands the space needs to get "lots of butts in the seats every day" for the space to thrive, which it has failed to do under previous owners.
Former aldermen Greg Roby said the key to success for the space will be to choose an operator who understands Crestwood's demographics. He described himself as a "bacon and eggs, wheat taost type of person," who goes out for breakfast daily.
"By 8 o' clock you can forget about the businessman," he said.