Turning something old into new is the theme for a downtown renovation project underway on Third Street. 

The project, the soon-to-be opened 1909 restaurant and the newly opened Rusty Willow flower shop, can be found in buildings which for many years housed empty storefronts. 

The project, under the partnership of Ron and Randy Lay and Bobby Hillegass, is the first of what Ron Lay hopes, will become an effort to breathe life into Grove's downtown.

"I've been involved in all of the vision projects in Grove in the last 25 years," Ron Lay said. "Every time someone would get a great idea or vision of what could happen - and how we could rebuild the downtown.

"I'm retired. I thought, if it's going to happen, it needs to start with one person."

Lay said he decided to start the ball rolling by building one site, in hopes that others will see the potential for other open spaces on Third Street.

"The vibrant growth will invite more [people] in the downtown to visit all of the stores and restaurants," Lay said, adding that people like Bob Henkle, who worked with Lay on the Grove Economic Development Authority, helped inspire the project.

"People like him got it all started," Lay said. "You always knew he had Grove's growth at heart."

The three store-fronts, which house 1909, Rusty Willow and a yet-to-be determined project, are housed in 11,000 square feet between 4 and 6 W. Third The space also includes an upstairs, which may feature downtown apartments at a later date.

"We're trying to finish this project [the restaurant] first, and worry about the other things later," Lay said. 

Joining the Lays and Hillegass in the project are Krista Sampson, who will serve as the day manager and special events coordinator; Justin Ruzika, who will serve as the dinner manager, and Chef Peter Seay.

"I'm excited about the staff we have assembled," Lay said. "Randy and I are not restaurateurs. So we thought the best thing to do was to put together a very skilled and professional team to carry out the operation.

"Everyone here was recruited by design and brought together - the best of the best."

Hillegass, who also owns and operates Goodfella's Pizza in Grove, will serve as the general manager for the restaurant.

Initially, Lay said, the project was designed to simply be a restaurant.

When the renovation process - spearheaded by local residential and commercial designer Reid Smith - opened up a retail space, the partners decided to recruit Kim Williams, who owns and operates the Rusty Willow with Richard Rowe, to join in the project.

The Rusty Willow, which was formerly housed next to Grand Lake Nutrition, opened in the new space on Friday, Jan. 5.

"I'm excited to see the revitalization [in downtown]," Williams said. "To see the people walking between the stores. It's what it's all about. Bringing life back to the older part of town."

While street-side parking for the two entities is limited, the partners are developing a well-lit parking space in the rear of the building.

Sampson said, modeled after parking along the square in downtown Bentonville, the primary parking and entrance for both facilities will be found in the rear entrances.

Hillegass jokes that the parking, while not directly next to the door, will still be closer for patrons than spots found at most big-box retail locations.

More about 1909

1909, which Lay hopes will open by month's end, will feature the culinary works of Seay, who worked as the executive chef of Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond and owned Gabriellas for more than 10 years, most recently worked as a culinary arts teacher and consultant.

He plans to offer a variety of lunch and dinner options, including rotisserie and smoked meats, steaks, seafood, a daily special and homemade breads and desserts. The restaurant will also feature a Sunday brunch menu. 

Some of the pub-themed items found on the menu include beer battered fried cheese curds and fresh pickles, sticky chicken wings, pub-style pretzels and more. 

The restaurant will feature seating for 100 in the main dining area, and 45 in the private dining/banquet space. 

The rear of the restaurant will house the Blue Duck, a pub-style bar, with seating for up to 30. 

The bar will feature more than 10 craft beers from the four-state area, as well as an espresso bar with beans roasted at the Aspen Coffee Company in Stillwater. Once established patrons will be able to text in their morning coffee orders for easy pick-up.

Sampson said the restaurant and bar will be geared for a wide-ranging clientele from those who are stopping by for a bite after work to those seeking a date-night experience. 

"It's not just a suit and tie restaurant" Ruzika said. "It will be for every occasion."

Seay anticipates items on the menu will range from $10 to $20 for most entrees, with some steaks or weekend seafood specials a bit more. Lunch specials will fall within the $10 range. 

The private dining room will be used for small gatherings, ranging from business meetings to groups of friends. 

Sampson hopes patrons at 1909 will experience a "wow factor" when coming. She said the restaurant is designed to have an experiential dining atmosphere. 

She's even encouraging the use of hashtags and social media, planning to implement #datenight1909 among others. 

Seay said plans to bring in guest chefs and to host other special events are also in the works. 

Rusty Willow

Williams said she believes the Rusty Willow will complement 1909.

She opened in her new location, before the restaurant was complete, in order to be settled before the Valentine's Day holiday rush. 

"It's been a smooth transition," Williams said. "I love it and I can't wait for the restaurant to open."

Williams plans to work with the 1909 team, providing fresh flowers for special occasions, banquets and the dining tables. She will also provide fresh flowers in the women's restrooms each day. 

Later this year, Williams said, she plans to offer extended hours at least twice a week until 7 or 7:30 p.m., to go along with the restaurant's evening hours.

From barnwood, exposed brick and tin, the Rusty Willow sports a "rustic" or reclaimed look.

Edison bulbs strung from the ceiling, along with home-grown grapevine, help add to the look.

Williams has moved her rustic 1954 Ford F150 pickup - which serves as her workbench - into her store, along with an old mercantile counter found in Cotter, Arkansas. The bench carries a tag featuring Chicago 1939 as the manufacturing date.

1909 is located at 4 West Third Street in Grove. For more information, persons interested may call 918-640-3312 or visit www.1909grove.com or www.facebook.com/1909grove.

The Rusty Willow is located at 6 West Third Street, Grove. For more information, persons interested may call 918-786-9898 or visit www.therustywillowflorist.com or find them on Facebook by searching "The-Rusty-Willow-LLC."


Behind the names

The restaurant gets its name from the year the building was built - in 1909. Krista Sampson said the team considered two names - 1909 and Vdalia, which means lake in Cherokee.

Members of the Grove Rotary Club were invited to cast their votes for the favorite name, as a way to help the community feel invested in the project.

Sampson said the overwhelming choice was 1909.

The Blue Duck is named for an Indian outlaw who once ran with Belle Starr.

"He was an very interesting, infamous person from the eastern Oklahoma area," Ron Lay said. "We thought it would be a great bar name."