By Becky Grisham
John Crispens hopes to open his Crispy’s restaurant in Springfield in early August. Renovations have been ongoing at the 1735 N. Main St. location, a former department store and then pawn shop. Crispens bought the building in 2014 and has been working on the plans. Building and related permits so far show almost $420,000 in construction work in addition to the $109,000 purchase price. The investment is more than $500,000 so far.
“I’m pretty much ready to go,” he said Wednesday. “It’s coming out amazing,” Crispens said.
In June, Springfield Gallery LLC applied for a zoning exception and waiver for a liquor license. Crispens, who leads the group. In the applications, Springfield Gallery describes Crispy’s as a full-service, family-friendly, 150-plus-seat restaurant.
Crispens says in the zoning documents that Crispy’s “has helped spur the establishment of new business along the Main Street business corridor in Springfield.” Among those are two breweries, which already have received waivers and won’t be serving food.
“Crispy’s will offer a full food menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with alcohol and liquor as only a portion of overall sales providing a social, cultural, and dining environment desperately needed in Springfield,” the documents say. The waiver requests a reduction in the minimum distance from a church from 500 to 233 feet. The exception is for the retail sales and service of all alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption including outside.
Crispens said Thursday the restaurant would open with lunch and dinner and later add breakfast. It will start with a focus on pizza, paninis, sandwiches and salads. He hired Chef John Allen and said about 20 people will staff Crispy’s. It’s been a project long in the making.
In December 2015, Crispens said he wanted to contribute to the level of development along that part of Main Street, which is north of Downtown. He considered himself lucky to have found the almost 6,000-square-foot building, which he bought in 2014.
He said the more than 80-year-old building featured architectural elements including terrazzo marble floors and two original skylights. He also wanted to restore the grand staircase to the second level.
The first floor features dining among large communal tables and 22 other tables and includes a full-service bar with about 25 seats. A second-floor mezzanine can seat 50 and also can be used for private events.
Crispens, a veteran restaurant and bar manager, said the Akra Bros. Department Store opened in the Crispy’s building March 23, 1933. It operated there for 40 years after which the structure was used briefly as a music store and then a pawn shop. Crispens bought it in May 2014 from Gold & Coin Inc.
City property records show the building was constructed in 1945, but Crispens said it was developed for the 1933 store opening, according to a story in The Florida Times-Union.
He has been restoring the front of the building to its original look, with display windows on each side and a covered alcove with a display window in the center and doors on each side.