Come October, They'll Be A New Place for Rochester To Meet and Eat
The MeetingHouse will take over the corner of Main and Third.
Most people dream in their beds at night.
But Jason Mood and Chris Johnson did their dreaming in walk-in coolers.
"We've spent the last four years scheming about this in walk-in coolers at restaurants we've worked at," Mood said. "It's something we're very passionate about."
Those frosty visions are about to become a reality as the partners move ahead with the opening of The MeetingHouse in Rochester, calling the former Mind, Body & Spirit location its new home.
Making a splash
The partners are currently meeting with designers and builders and awaiting approval on a liquor license.
"Mid-October is our best goal for opening The MeetingHouse," Mood said. "We'd like to get some practice time before the big, bright lights go on."
The plans include adding more windows to enjoy those lights, and the sights of downtown Rochester. The front will be opened up with some type of door system and a door will also be added facing Third Street for potential sidewalk dining.
The former greenhouse will become a lounge area, and the indoor bar area will be opened up and expanded with an unique awning over it and a thick wood block bar.
The plans include a mix of modern/industrial and warm comfort with charcoal walls and light wood, metal and tufted leather. There will be dark wood laminate floor and mirrors and lighting to open it up.
"There's a lot going into this," Mood said, "We're looking to make a splash. We want it to be fantastic."
The yin and the yang
Mood and Johnson need no practice in working together as they have spent the last nine years at Beverly Hills Grill, Johnson as chef and Mood working the front. Their roles at The MeetingHouse will stay the same.
"We have a pretty good yin-yang going on," Johnson said. "For example, Jason is all about the dynamics and design of this place and I'm interested in funcitonality."
And while Rochester Hills native and Rochester High graduate, Johnson can't wait to start cooking for his hometown, Mood is most excited to take care of their guests and give them a great experience.
"Our goal is to do stuff people want to eat every day," Johnson said.
Mood agreed, "The restaurant business is all about regulars. Working for Bill Roberts (owner of Beverly Hills Grill), we learned there's a way he takes care of his guests and that's how we want to do it."
What's in a name
Neither Johnson nor Mood can remember who originally came up with the name The MeetingHouse.
"It's one of the many names we had tossed around," Mood said. "But The MeetingHouse had that sophistication to it while still sounding comfortable."
It also had the neighborhood focus they are striving for.
"I'm really enjoying how community-oriented Rochester is," said Mood, who grew up in Royal Oak and graduated from the Roeper School.
Part of the welcome was a facility tour from previous owner Mike Plesz. "He was kind enough to come in and show us all the green elements of the building, the solar panels and geothermal heat. There's some pretty crazy stuff in there," Mood said. "We picked the building based on its location, but we're thrilled to have the green aspect to it."
A menu with some history
While there are still logos to design, a menu to finalize and, well, a whole building to remodel, the vision of The MeetingHouse is already clear.
"We want this to be a neighborhood place where people come and hang out," Mood said. "It will have a comfortable atmosphere and simple, seasonal approachable menu."
When it comes to that menu, the criteria is simple. The ingredients will be of highest quality and as local as possible but to make it on the menu, "It's got to be my favorite or it's not on the menu," Johnson said.
A few of the menu items have a unique sense of history.
The fish-and-chips will be made with Rochester Mills IPA and rainbow trout.
"That was a no brainer with the history of this building," Mood said.
And Johnson reached back to the late 1990's and his own work experince to create Rocky's Calzone.
"I worked at Rocky's Pizza and that was my favorite thing on the menu," Johnson said. "I grew up eating all over Rochester— Lipuma's, Crazy Greek, Two Sisters—so many places with character and charm. I'm excited to bring my passion back to my community."