Archive for Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Bichelmeyer plans steakhouse and bar at grocery store site

December 22, 1999

Tonganoxie's longest-operating grocery store is coming to an end.

Matt Bichelmeyer, owner of Bichelmeyer Meat and Grocery, 427 E. Fourth, said he will close the grocery store in January.

But in April, he will open Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse at the same location.

The east half of the building will house a sports bar, and the west half will serve as a restaurant, specializing in steaks and seafood, Bichelmeyer said. Total seating-capacity will be about 190.

Bichelmeyer said he plans to build on the structure's already nostalgic atmosphere.

"The old tin ceiling will be seen above both sides of the room, and photographs from Tonganoxie's early days will hang over the booths," he said.

Bichelmeyer plans to have a pianist playing a baby grand piano on the restaurant side of the business and to have several large-screen televisions in the sports bar.

Booths and partitions will separate the two sides of the business, Bichelmeyer said.

Bichelmeyer said he plans to begin selling the remaining grocery items in January and will close the store at the end of the month.

After two months of remodeling, the restaurant will open.

Bichelmeyer said he will retain the meat market and deli shop, as well as his catering business.

Customers who want to visit the meat market will be able to enter from the northeast side of the building.

Chris Donnelly, executive vice president of First State Bank and Trust, said he thinks the nostalgic theme of the restaurant will correspond with the city's plan to revitalize the downtown area.

"Also, it will be an asset to have a restaurant that will be open extended hours and that will bring more people downtown," Donnelly said. "That has been the whole goal of the downtown revitalization project."

Steve Gumm, senior vice president of First State Bank and Trust, said he thought the restaurant was a good idea.

"We look forward to working with Matt on another successful project," Gumm said.

Meanwhile, Bichelmeyer emphasized his interest in renovating the building, which has served as a grocery store in Tonganoxie for most of this century.

According to John Lenahan, construction of the structure was completed in 1907 when Zoellner Mercantile Co., a combination grocery store and mercantile store opened. In 1969, Champion's IGA moved into the main floor of the two-story building.

Gene Schultz, a former owner of Champion's IGA, said that 10 years later, Jerry Baker purchased the business. In June 1991, Bichelmeyer became the new owner.

"For me, to bring my old building back to life is one of my goals," Bichelmeyer said. "And we're going nostalgic all the way."

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