KOKOMO — Walton restaurateur Mike Lucas isn’t convinced the trail users running and biking past the soon-to-be-opened Fox’s Trail in Kokomo are the same crowd he’s targeting.
But the chance to be located next to the Wildcat Creek, in the middle of the trailhead area the city of Kokomo spent $1.3 million creating, was too good to pass up.
“In all honesty, [Greg] Goodnight’s done a hell of a job,” Lucas said of the Kokomo mayor, who has made downtown renewal and the city’s trail system his signature accomplishments.
Across the street from the Fox’s Trail location, on South Main Street just south of the creek, is the old Northern Indiana Service Co. building, slated as a future convention center.
It’s a good spot for a business, made more attractive by the availability of a riverfront liquor license, and by Lucas’ reputation from his Foxes Den restaurant/bar in Walton, and his now closed Sly Fox bar in Kokomo.
“This is a good addition to our city, but more importantly, this project really showcases a lot of good development practices,” Goodnight said. “It preserves an historic building, and it helps clean up an eyesore. It’s a good redevelopment use.”
Fortune Management has been doing the renovation work of the old icehouse building the new restaurant will occupy, and the obvious focal point, as soon as someone walks in, will the massive – and we mean massive – granite boulder wall in the center of the building.
The wall, which is composed of boulders several feet in circumference, all mortared together, is the brainchild of Fortune president Scott Pitcher.
The old wooden doors used as paneling, the granite countertop remnants used as flooring, it’s all Pitcher’s signature. He’s recreated the feel of wooden beams by putting strips of bark, cast off from a Knightstown sawmill, on the walls. There are cutouts in two mirrors where mounted deer heads will go.
And the bar is a big horseshoe, with an old wooden column in the middle, to be topped with a light fixture. It’s all a bit avant garde for Lucas, but he’s trusting Pitcher to pull it all off.
“I was going for something like a Michigan steakhouse, or an Arizona steakhouse, and I sent [Pitcher] drawings and photographs,” Lucas said. “He got a little more rustic than I intended. The center wall was his idea.”
The new place will feature an outdoor patio area, alongside the creek, for patrons who want to see and be seen. Inside, the idea will be to have considerable walk-up activity at the horseshoe bar. Family seating will take up the space on the other side of the rock wall.
Workers had to cut a doorway in the building to bring the boulders in on skids, and they used a forklift to position the stones. It was an undertaking. Fortune’s Jeff Smith, Jeff Peters, and Mark and John Anderson were instrumental in building the project to Pitcher’s plans.
Staff at the Foxes Den in Walton indicated a definite opening date hadn’t been set for the Kokomo restaurant, but hoped to start serving meals in November.
The menu, said Lucas, should be very similar to the Foxes Den, but with more of an emphasis on seafood.
“It’s going to be very unique, and served in baskets, with generous portions and affordable at a Kokomo level,” he said. “Not overly expensive, and you’ll get double your money’s worth.”
Lucas said he’s not convinced that the trail users will be “big steak eaters and big beer drinkers,” but he said the trail didn’t attract him as much as being by the creek, and in such a unique situation.
And he thinks the folks who’ve visited the Foxes Den will be very pleased with the new place.
“I think anybody who goes up there will tell you, it just doesn’t get much better,” he said.