Two new restaurants bring different menus, jobs to downtown Van Buren

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 2,894 views 

The bus trolley in downtown Van Buren.

The historic Main Street in downtown Van Buren soon will offer two new restaurants for tourists, residents and visitors. The Vault 1905 Sports Grill is set to open Tuesday (May 7) at 624 Main St. in the historic Citizens Bank.

Pasta Grill will open at the end of May or first of June at 810 Main St., where Cottage Café once was.

“We are trying to keep people in Van Buren and to visit downtown Van Buren. We’re all trying to give people things to do, places to shop and eat. Trying to keep money here,” said Guy Messersmith, who along with his wife, Patty, co-owns The Vault with Lonnie and Mindy London of Van Buren.

The Messersmiths came to Van Buren about seven or eight years ago to hike and visit. Messersmith’s former classmate, Lonnie London, often tried to convince the couple to move to town.

“We said no for five or six years,” Messersmith said. “But they told us their dream, and we were ready to become very involved in downtown.”

The Londons are active in The Old Timers Merchants Association in Van Buren, and Mindy London is a commissioner with the Van Buren Advertising and Promotions Commission. Though the Messersmiths will continue to keep their home in Duncan, Okla., they have committed to Van Buren and recently purchased another building and will live on Main Street, Guy Messersmith said.

“Between the four of us, we own four building on Main Street now,” he said. “We want to Van Buren to on people’s bucket list. That’s what we’re striving for.”

Building in downtown Van Buren that will be the location of The Vault restaurant.

More places to eat on the street will help that, he said.

THE VAULT
The Vault will seat 70 and offer a variety of appetizers, burger sliders and pizzas, as well as some salads and sandwiches. The restaurant will employee 23-24 people.

“We’re looking at adding a couple of desserts,” Messersmith said.

The venue will feature several large-screen televisions for event watching and has a liquor license and will sell “adult beverages.

“But this is a family restaurant, not a bar. We are a grill tied to sports. You can come see what’s going on, enjoy your friends, enjoy a good meal. And if you want an adult beverage, we’ll have that,” he said.

The restaurant will be open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“If a game is going late, we’ll stay open until it’s over,” Messersmith said, though he said the restaurant will be closed on Sundays and Mondays to give employees time to spend with their families. “We’ve had several people ask us to be open on Sundays for football. That’s something we’ll see about.”

The buildings that house The Vault and Pasta Grill have undergone extensive remodeling.

“We refurbished all the bathrooms so they are ADA compliant, removed the drop ceiling to show the original 18-foot-tall tin ceilings. They removed the plaster to show the tin walls. We sandblasted, and then (Patty and Mindy) came in with the little bitty paintbrushes and worked on everything. They were up on these pretty tall scaffolds,” Messersmith said.

The original 1905 stained glass was kept in the restaurant, and bowling alley lanes were used for the flooring and the back bar, he said. The overall renovation took about 11 months. Messersmith said the partners would not release their start-up investment in the facility.

PASTA GRILL
Construction on Pasta Grill started last July, said Phil Payton. He and wife Cathi own what will be the first franchise of the popular eatery organization that has locations in Conway and Russellville.

Pasta Grill in downtown Van Buren.

“In order to get the kitchen so it would be to code and the structure secure, had to tear down the building down basically to the ground,” Payton said. “They built a new building for us.”

The initial investment for the Paytons is around $200,000, with the landlord spending much more in order to get the building to where it needed to be, he said. The building is owned by Jim and Janet Petty, who also own many other buildings on the street.

“They have been very accommodating to us,” Payton said.

The idea to open a Pasta Grill in Van Buren began several years ago with Alan and Debbie Foliart, who own Chapters on Main, a coffee and bookstore at 816 Main St.

“They talked to the owners (Wesley Hall), and at that time, they said there wasn’t enough interest to bring one to Van Buren,” Payton said. “About three years ago, they suggested we talk to them about doing it.”

Payton said they were in the process of expanding his wife’s catering business, Cathi’s Creations, but had not considered a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

“But here we are,” he said. “We’re very excited. We’re hoping to have them lined out the building like they do the other ones (the Pasta Grills in Russellville and Conway.”

Pasta Grill offers a variety of Italian and Cajun pasta as well as seafood and steaks, according to the menu on its website. The Van Buren restaurant will have seating for 110 inside.

“That does not include the outside deck. I’m not sure what we are doing with that yet. We will probably have a handful of tables out there,” Payton said.

The restaurant does have a liquor license, but Payton said it would not have a full bar.

“We will only offer beer, wine, margaritas and daiquiris,” he said. “If you want something with your dinner, you’ll certainly be able to have that.”

The business is in the process of training employees at the Russellville Pasta Grill. Payton expects there to be 22-25 employees once the restaurant opens, though most of those will be part-time.

“We really think this is going to be great. We’re right across from the depot, so people coming off the train will see us as soon as they step off the train. We’re very excited to get it all rolling soon,” Payton said.

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