City hears restaurant pitch

NICK MCMILLION/TIMESNEWSPAPERS

Chillicothe city leaders may have found a solution on how to kill two birds with one stone at the city’s Committee of a Whole meeting Jan. 18 at City Hall.

One challenge the city faces is how to encourage the growth of new businesses.

The other challenge for the city has been what it should do with the long vacant Gray properties in the 200 block of Cedar Street the city purchased a year-and-a-half ago.

Peoria area businessman Wally Zich and wife, Nathenia, brought forth an idea for a project that could help solve both of these challenges.

The Zichs, owners of KBL Design Center in Peoria and Bloomington, Po-Boys Restaurant, 6736 N. Frostwood Parkway, Peoria, and Coffee Bar, 1005 Derby St., Pekin, want to develop two restaurants on the Gray properties’ site.

As the only item on the agenda for the meeting, Mayor Doug Crew said the topic was something the council was interested in.

“For the past year-and-a-half discussions about restoring the Gray property has gone in fits and spurts,” Crew said. “Wally has a lot of expertise in restoring dilapidated buildings and making them look new again. This potentially could be a very exciting project, and it should be given a lot of merit in it’s continuation.”

According to Zich, the couple envisions something similar to their Peoria restaurant Po-Boys — small, unique and casual.

“Chillicothe doesn’t need another a restaurant just to have another restaurant,” Zich said. “We want to create a destination spot, where 60-70 percent of the business would come from outside of Chillicothe. It would have a unique and comfortable environment and wouldn’t be about cold beer, or deep-fried this or deep-fried that.”

The project is in its infancy stages, but action from the City Council would be needed to move the project forward.

Demolition and cleanup costs, as well as the construction of a parking lot on the property would cost the city an estimated $200,000.

Zich estimated the restaurants could open as early as October, but said a lot of pieces have to fall into place before that can happen.

“Our goal is October, but a lot of stars and things have to align to begin to get some sense as to whether or not this project will materialize,” Zich said. “There’s demolition, liquor and gaming licenses, and the parking lot.That’s a lot of moving parts happening all at once in one project.”