02/07/13 — Downtown restaurants shift

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Downtown restaurants shift

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 7, 2013 1:46 PM

Customers paid their final tabs at Getaway Coffeehouse Cafe Wednesday morning while just yards away two young restaurateurs are making plans to open up a new pizza and oyster bar as part of a downtown shuffle of restaurants.

Getaway closed its doors Wednesday afternoon after more than two years at its East Walnut Street location where it was named downtown's best new business by the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. in 2011.

Owner and operator Lisa Prairie said equipment failures over the summer had cost her a lot to repair and replace, but a recent refrigerator failure that wiped out much of her inventory led her to consider the viability of the business.

She said she opened her books to more than half a dozen downtown supporters, from restaurateurs to property owners, to discuss Getaway's future, but they all agreed it would be difficult to recover the momentum lost.

"We decided it wasn't viable for this setup," she said. "There's not enough equipment or seating to sustain the volume it needs."

Increases in expenses in the neighborhood of 30 to 35 percent since her opening didn't help, either, she said, adding that she didn't want to risk spending herself into a hole and instead decided to go out on top.

"I don't have any regrets," she said, adding that just because the business was no longer sustainable did not mean it had not been a success.

Those who came to pay their last respects seemed to agree, as some shed tears and others embraced each other as they awaited their last coffees.

Mrs. Prairie said her focus will now be her family, but didn't rule out attempting to revive Getaway sometime in the future in a different downtown location.

"If I win the Powerball, I'll be back Friday," she said.

Meanwhile, the moving of Lotus 1899 from its location on John Street into its owner's other restaurant, The Laughing Owl, left a downtown void that partners Stephen Rhodes and Andy Mitchell aim to fill with a wood-fired pizza and oyster bar.

Rhodes and Mitchell, who operate Brown Bag Cafe on Patetown Road, secured a lease for the former Lotus location where they plan to open Matchbox, a restaurant that will feature pizza, seafood, burgers, fine wines and local craft beers in an upscale restaurant atmosphere.

The two wanted to open a restaurant downtown when Murphy's Place closed down last summer, but Laughing Owl received the lease instead.

Undeterred, Rhodes said the Lotus move gave the Brown Bag operators a second chance downtown.

"We both want to see downtown Goldsboro grow," Mitchell said.

And they are aiming to make good on their commitment to downtown early, as they've already spoken with Arts Council of Wayne County Director Sarah Merritt about a partnership that will see local art featured prominently throughout the restaurant.

"We want to let them use a lot of our wall space," Rhodes said.

The new restaurant concept will lean heavily on locally grown produce, Rhodes said, as they are already seeking relationships with local farmers for their menu.

The menu will be interactive in a manner similar to sushi bars, Mitchell said, noting that customers will have options with a burger bar that include potatoes from across the nation and meat selections that include venison, buffalo and wild boar. Seafood, including an oyster bar, will round out the rest of the menu.

Rhodes said there will be an extensive wine list and a craft beer selection that will feature many local breweries, but the two said both the prices and atmosphere will remain tastefully casual.

Rhodes said they have also leased the former Art Market retail space next door, which will likely be a Brown Bag Express location beginning in the summer.

The downtown Brown Bag will feature quick lunches to go based on the full Brown Bag Cafe menu.

Rhodes and Mitchell said they are currently accepting applications for experienced workers and expect to open in the spring.