Bob Berger, co-owner with his wife, Debbie, has been painting this week, putting the final touches on opening the new coffee café in the 400 block of East Broadway. The old Davis and Chapell hardware building, the longtime home of the Bon Ton Shop women's clothing store and most recently the home of The Front Page, has been transformed into an modern eatery to serve a new generation.
Berger is pleased with many features in the café. The clothing store showroom has been opened up into a long inviting room with a view that runs the length of the building. Mounted on the original brick walls are some of the many different styles of doors found in the building.
Inside the front entrance is a stage built against the new glass front wall. The elevated stage, where musical instruments have already been placed, is constructed out of the building's original elevator.
"If you could manage the physics of it, you could pull the rope and raise the stage floor," Berger said. "All the gear work is in place."
The oak floor on the ground level has been refinished and shines like new. Berger said the contractor who refinished the floor figured the wood dates from the 1930s, based on the nails he found. At the back of the store, where the beauty shop had been, Berger said the floor was in much worse shape, with many drain holes drilled in it. More of that floor had to be entirely replaced.
The bar around the entrance to the kitchen has been constructed by general contractor Jerry Dierker out of partitions found in the building. The bar area is lit by lights suspended from a wood frame, which hangs from the ceiling over the entire perimeter of the bar.
Jana Larmer, who grew up in the food business, will head up the kitchen operation, Berger said. Debbie Berger and Larmer will get training this week on how to run the barrista and work together on the menu.
The least finished part of the building is The Den, the youth center on the second floor. The black dropped ceiling is in place. The plaster wall has finally taken paint. Berger said the pine floor proved to be the main disappointment.
"The contractor said it was too far gone to restore," Berger said. "Once you start replacing pieces, there's no end to it."
To resolve the problem, new sub-flooring will be added and the entire upstairs will be carpeted. Switching to carpeting may turn out to be a better solution, Berger said, since it will better muffle sound from the youth center.
After another week of hard work, the Bergers are shooting for a soft opening for Mocha Jo's next week. Various businesses will be invited in as focus groups to provide input and test the menu. Berger said he hopes to have a real opening for the general public on June 29.