After spending most of his adult life working in factories and other short-term jobs, Todd Brown wanted to do something that would make him happy.
Brown believes he has found happiness in the form of a new restaurant, Empire Street Grill. The business has recently opened and has given the owner a chance to run an eatery and bring new life to a well-known building in Montpelier.
“A friend of mine owns the building and offered me an opportunity to get it back up,” Brown said, explaining why he wanted to turn the former bar into a diner. “I was not happy with my career choices.”
The building, which sits at Empire and Depot streets, had always been a bar since it was first built a century ago, Brown said. He has a photo from 1932 showing the building’s use even then.
“This is the last one standing,” Brown said about the neighborhood which used to be home to the city’s depot. “Both of my grandpas worked for the railroad.”
Getting the building ready for opening has meant long hours of hard work. This is his first time running a restaurant, but he has managed a small bar before.
“I jumped in with both feet,” Brown said.
The opening caught him off guard as he had to turn people away the first week. Now with the addition of a new manager, he has been able to handle the bumps a new store brings, he said.
The building’s location is not an issue for him as many people have heard about his place and have filled the dining room on many nights, Brown said. The clientele are those who remember the building and the neighborhood and come to check things out.
Many a night he will reconnect with someone from his past or the building’s. The fact his store can be seen from the Platt Street Bridge makes people realize people are stopping by.
This summer his nephew is going to wear a chicken suit and point people to the restaurant, Brown said.
While the building has a history of being a bar, Brown said his establishment is alcohol free and should be considered a family place.
The manager is Crystal White who brings many years of experience to the business. A longtime friend of Brown, she was helping out when he first opened and after two days he offered her the job.
“He needed the help,” White said.
The move was the right one as she said she is much happier than at her former position.
“It’s constant,” White said of the pace. “I am never bored.”
The menu features American dishes of burgers, hot dogs, broasted chicken and more. Brown has a creation called the Empire Burger which is a 1/3-pound burger covered in Velveeta Cheese on Texas Toast. :
“We are all fresh,” White said about the ingredients in her food.
White and Brown agree the menu is a work in progress and patrons should not be afraid to ask for special orders. The best time to get an off-menu dish is during the slow times, she said.
“If we are not slammed, we are willing to make any request,” White said.
The business is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. every day except Sunday (closed) and may stay open until 9p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant is at 625 Empire St, Montpelier, OH 43543. Phone: (419) 485-2223.