DOVER— Ryan Weber and his mom Diana Welch are proud to bring another restaurant to downtown Dover.
The new owners are currently renovating the building that housed W.T. Smithers at 140 S. State St.
It will be now known as the Grey Fox Grille & Public House, a full-service restaurant and bar specializing in American cuisine with hopes of opening its doors in October.
When the prior owners closed Smithers in 2014, Ms. Welch jumped on the opportunity.
She then partnered with her son and longtime friends James and Carolyn Davidson to buy the building and give the business a new identity.
Ms. Welch and Mr. Weber also own the Golden Fleece Tavern on Loockerman Street.Grey Fox Grille & Public House co-owner Diana Welch of Frederica explains that it costs more to restore the property than it would’ve been to raze it and build a new structure but through state government incentives she and her son Ryan Weber were able to keep the historic Dover building and return it to its former glory. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers[/caption]
“It was the right place and right time,” Ms. Welch added.
Ms. Welch said Gov. Jack Markell’s Downtown Development District initiative, which is designed to leverage private money to spur development in Delaware’s downtowns, has been vital to The Grey Fox.
Dover, Wilmington and Seaford were all named the program’s pilot districts. Under the initiative, large projects can receive up to 20 percent of their construction costs back, city of Dover waivers on impact fees and building permits as well as cash rebates from the Downtown Dover Partnership and matching funds provided through Kent County Levy Court.
“That helped us a lot,” Ms. Welch said.
Ms. Welch has a long history in downtown Dover, as she opened the Bell, Book and Candle shop, and later reopened the Dover Newsstand.
“We just love doing it,” Ms. Welch said. “We love bringing these old buildings back. We love making them useful again.”
Ms. Welch, Mr. Weber and construction workers have been working on the building non-stop since May 1.
“We’re here early in the morning until it’s time for us to head over to the Golden Fleece later in the afternoon,” Mr. Weber said.
One of the many challenges that they’ve faced is the buildings structural damage.
“The minute you open a wall there’s always a surprise and for me that’s never been a good experience,” Ms. Welch said.
“For example the floor had five layers and we couldn’t figure out why. We knew it was something wrong with the floor they just never bothered to fix.”
“We couldn’t tell from the basement what the problem was, but when we pulled up the floor we seen there were three rotten floor joints,” Ms. Welch added.
“That’s an unpleasant surprise. I have to stop everything and go back to the architect to address the problem.”
Ms. Welch hopes the restaurant will have the feel of a Victorian home with modern updates.
The first floor will feature a dining area with piano and martini bars. There will also be seating upstairs for customers waiting for a table, said Ms. Welch.
Ms. Welch said that customers at the Golden Fleece have suggested menu items as well.
“Someone at the bar said we should have bison burgers,” Ms. Welch said. “I thought to myself there is a bison farm down the street where I live and how cool would it be to have that once a month.”
The restaurant will use a lot of home-grown sources.
“We are focused on showcasing Delaware products,” Ms. Welch said. “We hope to use products from Delaware wineries, distilleries and farms.
Mr. Weber, who used to work at Smithers when he was teenager, said he can’t wait to see the face on customer’s faces once they walk into the establishment.
“I feel very proud,” Mr. Weber said. “It’s going to be exciting to watch them come in. It will be like a new fresh face on the same skeleton.”