December 22, 2013

BIZ BUZZ: Walton restaurateur opens Kokomo restaurant

New restaurant up and running after massive building renovation.

By Carson Gerber For the Pharos-Tribune

---- — KOKOMO—People used to the old Sly Fox bar on North Washington Street in Kokomo are in for a big surprise by its reincarnation as The Fox’s Trail.

The new version of the restaurant at 305 S. Main St. opened recently after the old bar burned down in 2011.

“The difference is night and day,” said owner Linda Lucas. “The Sly Fox was little. If you were short, you didn’t have to duck to walk in. But this place is big. It’s a lot fancier.”

Fancier is right. A huge granite boulder wall splits the restaurant between its family dining room and bar area. Hardwood floors, wooden columns and the rock wall all add up to a spacious, rustic feel.

Then there’s the menu. Lucas, who also runs a Walton restaurant, said the old place mainly served run-of-the-mill bar food. The Fox’s Trail, on the other hand, serves up a two-page menu complete with steak, seafood, pasta, salads and burgers.

Patrons can order up blue gill, cod, shrimp or clam strips, or go for a porterhouse, ribeye or New York strip steak.

The new look and menu isn’t just a big change for the restaurant. It’s also a big change for its new location — a historic Kokomo building constructed in 1874 as part of an ice-making factory.

Over the last few decades, it fell into disrepair. A gaping hole stood in the northwest wall and the outside concrete was crumbling.

Last year, Beckley Office Equipment, which was using the building for storage, donated it to the city.

“(Beckley’s) knew the mayor’s philosophy about renovating old buildings and bringing them back to life, and they wanted to play a role in that,” said Randy McKay, the city’s director of operations.

He said by the time the city acquired the property, the blighted building actually had a negative assessed value.

The city talked with Walton developer and restaurateur, Mike Lucas, who owned the old Sly Fox bar, about turning the property into a new restaurant.

Last year, they struck a deal. The city gave the property to Mike Lucas at no cost, with the caveat that he would renovate it and turn it into a family establishment, McKay said.

And that’s what he did. Linda Lucas said they had to gut the building and completely redo the interior. They also had to raise up the floor by 18 inches after the flood hit earlier this year.

But all the worked paid off when The Fox’s Trail opened for business in the middle of downtown’s trailhead area.

“It’s beautiful,” McKay said. “I think it’s going to be an excellent piece to that neighborhood. I think they’ll do very well.”

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said the project has been a great example of the private and public sector working together to improve the city.

“The end result is a restored historic building that’s back on the tax roll, and is a great amenity to our trailhead improvement in the downtown area,” he said in a statement. “This is a successful example how city government can facilitate private sector development to clean up an eyesore and redevelop a long-neglected property at no cost to taxpayers.”