Entrepreneurs bank on restaurants revitalizing downtown Sandusky

SANDUSKY A summer's worth of bad economic news has been hard for residents to stomach.
May 24, 2010



A summer's worth of bad economic news has been hard for residents to stomach.

But local entrepreneurs have quietly souped up the city's dining options, hoping food will be the city's meal ticket toward a rejuvenated downtown.

"It all starts with restaurants," Jon Lippus, executive director of the Sandusky Main Street Association, said earlier this year. "If you get people eating downtown, they'll patronize other shops. Just look at (Cleveland suburb) Tremont. They've built their whole economy around little cafes and museums. Good food is a catalyst for development."

One entrepreneurial duo, Jim Miller and Gary Neill, want to cook up excitement using a familiar brand.

Earlier last year, Miller and Neill bought Markley's Restaurant, the popular East Market Street diner that closed last spring.

Although Miller and Neill have more than doubled the size of the restaurant and built a barbecue pit and patio facing Sandusky Bay, Miller said the restaurant's spirit will remain the same.

"People who walk in will remember it," Miller said. "It's got a few changes, but it's very similar to the old Markley's Restaurant. All new equipment, some new booths, tables and a couple other things. But it's basically Markley's 2010."

Like the original diner, Markley's Restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch until 2 p.m. They'll even bring back "the donuts," formerly known as "sinkers," which were popular at the old Markley's Restaurant.

But Markley's Bar & Grill, a new addition to the eatery, will serve traditional bar food in the afternoons and evenings. And on summer days or mild autumn afternoons, the patio will afford patrons a million-dollar view of the water.

"That's why we liked this lot," Miller said. "The back wall will have all glass windows, so even people inside can look out at the bay."

Miller and Neill aren't the only local entrepreneurs recycling old restaurant space. The McCune family, led by matriarch Susan, bought the old Brass Pelican building earlier this year, just east of Schade-Mylander Plaza.

Scott Schell, the city's economic development specialist, said the McCunes already added new doors and refaced the exterior of the building.

Although the family didn't return phone calls this week, Schell said the restaurant, which built a porch overlooking Sandusky Bay, will be a nice addition to the city's dining scene.

"Right there on the water, it should do big business," Schell said. "It's gone slower than they've wanted I think, but I think they'll be happy with the finished product."

Some older restaurants are also improving their lot.

Port Sandusky Family Restaurant, on West Market Street, began a long-term renovation this summer, adding new siding and windows to the building.

In the coming years, owner Sherri Waddington said she will also redo the restaurant's kitchen, restrooms and dining room.

"We want to help improve downtown Sandusky," Waddington said this week. "There are a lot of good people downtown. A lot of good things going on."