MOUNT VERNON — The Alcove Restaurant has been not just a Mount Vernon icon, but one known throughout Ohio for nearly 100 years. It opened in 1911 as a soda fountain and sandwich shop. It was later named The Alcove, after the Alcove room inside the restaurant.
The late Tom Metcalf was a driving force behind the restaurant, starting in 1983 when he purchased the restaurant from Rich Cochran. Metcalf ran the restaurant until 1999, when he sold it to David and Kathy Body.
By 2004, it looked like the restaurant would have to close, as the Bodys were not able to make a financial go of it. However, Metcalf put together a group of local investors to keep The Alcove alive. Although the restaurant closed briefly, Metcalf’s efforts had it up and running in no time. He served as The Alcove’s general manager until about a year before his death.
Barbara Barry, one of those investors, explained the importance of Metcalf to The Alcove and the importance of The Alcove to downtown Mount Vernon.
“My mother, Virginia Barry, and I believe very strongly that The Alcove Restaurant is one of the pillars to the success of downtown Mount Vernon,” she said. “It was through Tom Metcalf’s efforts that the group of investors came together in 2004 to keep The Alcove open. Tom served as general manager of the restaurant.
“Many people have asked us about the future of The Alcove since Tom’s recent death,” she continued. “Unfortunately, Tom was not able to take an active role in running the restaurant for almost a year.”
Barry said it has been Kim Lenkei, office manager, David Atkinson, executive chef, and Faye Phillips, sales director, who have been managing the team of employees at The Alcove. They have also coordinated the banquet and catering services, which include functions at The Dan Emmett Conference Center.
“It is our hope that the citizens of Knox County and visitors will continue to enjoy, for many years to come, the dining experience that they have come to expect,” she said.
The investors made more than a financial commitment to the restaurant. Many of them considered it a civic investment in the future of Mount Vernon’s downtown district.
Local businessman Mark Ramser gave his views on the importance of keeping The Alcove open.
“The Alcove is going to continue in business and we hope it will for many years to come,” he said. “That’s the plan. The people who have invested in The Alcove, that was the reason we invested in it; to reopen The Alcove when it closed briefly in 2004. We feel it’s important for downtown in the past, and also in the present and future. That’s the reason we invested in it and the reason we continued to operate it. It will be very similar to the way it’s been run in the past.”