Update: The restaurant will not be open March 25, as the restaurant needs to restock and prepare for what could be its typical day. More than twice the number of orders were taken than anticipated.
LOUDONVILLE -- It wasn't the grand opening Dr. Dakota Zickefoose imagined for the Black Fork Bistro as he prepared for the new downtown Loudonville restaurant's opening.
Dozens of people didn't gather for the occasion; the street wasn't blocked off for games and community-centered festivities; and there was no need for reservations. None were available.
The newly remodeled dining room, promising to seat nearly 70, was closed before it could even open after an order from Gov. Mike DeWine in attempt to minimize the spread of COVID-19, keeping vulnerable populations safe and preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
To adapt to the changing circumstances, restaurant owners -- Zickefoose, his father Richard Zickefoose and an anonymous partner -- decided to offer carry-out only and moved up the opening.
Tuesday, March 24 marked the Black Fork Bistro's first day of business. Doors opened at 11 a.m. for the 153 West Main Street eatery, and within 90 minutes more than 50 orders were already placed.
It wasn't what Zickefoose initially imagined, but it was far beyond what he hoped for, especially in light of the adverse economic impact and job losses caused by COVID-19.
"We're incredibly blessed to have the community supporting us this much," Zickefoose said. "There's a lot people right now who may not have the same amount of expendable income, may be laid off from their jobs, so to see people still come out and have this kind of support right now, it means a lot. It's just been really cool."
In fact, the turnout has prompted the business to close for a day to recover.
"We can honestly say the turnout was better than expected. Because of that we need (March 25) to restock, train our staff, organize and prep for this to be our 'typical day.' We did over twice as many orders than we anticipated," the restaurant owner said in a Facebook post.
Fear not, Black Fork Bistro will reopen Friday, March 26.
At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, six individuals, socially-distanced throughout the dining room, waited for their pick-up orders. Among the group was the owner of a neighboring business, Marie White and her husband Tom. Marie runs The Alabaster Mouse at 222 West Main Street, which is closed as "non-essential business."
"I've been waiting for months for this to be open, so I was just over-the-moon excited," Marie said. "I just can't think of anything that would be better for my business than having a restaurant downtown."
When customers ask where to eat, she's had to send them out of town -- or at least out of downtown -- for food.
"Once they're out of town, they're gone," she said.
She and her husband ordered the classic burgers, which are topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, American cheese and mayonnaise.
Other menu items include pizza, salads, pastas, sandwiches and soups. The dessert menu features cheesecake, creme brûlée and a seasonal fruit crisp.
When the dining room opens, specialty cocktails and craft beer will be served, too. Locally brewed options will be brought in from nearby Millersburg Brewing Company and The Phoenix Brewing Company of Mansfield.
The owners of Black Fork Bistro purchased the building in January 2019 and began renovations last March with intentions to open in Fall 2019. When permits and other processes took longer than expected, the opening was pushed to Spring 2020.
"It's been crazy because we were going to open up March 31 to April 17 for a soft opening, and now that's not happening as far as the dining room goes, but we have food service ready and thought, well, let's do carry out," Zickefoose said. "It's a good opportunity to get the kitchen staff running."
The grand opening was originally set for April 18. Now it will be pushed back to at least mid-May.
Until orders restricting dine-in business are lifted, the Black Fork Bistro will operate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday -- with the exception of March 25.
The Zickefoose family also operates a chiropractic office, boutique and fitness center in downtown Loudonville. The chiropractic office remains open, but the other two businesses have been closed.