ALBANY -- Employees at My Downtown Bistro were told Friday afternoon that the restaurant, open for just under four months at its 230 West Broad Ave. location, was closing.
Before the doomsday prophets could proclaim another nail in the inner city's coffin, however, partners B.J. Fletcher and Sarah Edmonds announced that they would open Cafe 230 in the location within a couple of weeks.
"I think I've made it pretty clear over the last little while that I want to be a part of downtown," Fletcher, manager of the popular Ole Times Country Buffet restaurant at 2401 Dawson Road, said Friday. "I'm just one of those people who believes that no town can be successful without a successful downtown.
"We're going to be asking for prayers and support from a lot of places, but I feel we can be the anchor to help bring downtown back. I've always felt if you give folks something they can be proud of, they'll support it."
Edmonds, who's worked with Fletcher in the food industry for the past eight years and partners with Valdosta-based Ole Times owner Pat O'Neal to provide food services at the local MillerCoors plant, said she thinks the West Broad location is the perfect place to make a go downtown.
"The owner of the building (businessman Marty McLendon) has done an outstanding job of making that location extra nice," Edmonds, who also owns and will continue to manage Colours Hair Studio at 2345-B Dawson Road, said Friday. "If we're going to help give new life to downtown, that's the perfect place to do it.
"I grew up in Albany, and I remember going downtown shopping with my mom. I think it's going to be neat to be there."
McLendon said he had "multiple game plans" in place when he remodeled and opened My Downtown Bistro at the 230 West Broad location.
"There was not enough traffic to sustain a business long-term under the current management plan," he said. "I think the management plan B.J. has might be a better fit for downtown."
Fletcher and Edmonds said they will take the time between now and their planned opening "sometime around the first of March" to work out the details of Cafe 230. And while their new venture will not be associated with Ole Times, customers can expect many of the same elements of the popular buffet.
"We're going to start off serving lunch only, probably open from 10:30 (a.m.) to 2:30 (p.m.) Monday through Friday," Fletcher said. "We definitely will have a Sunday buffet from say 11 (a.m.) to 3 or 4 (p.m.). We'll open for special events on Saturdays; for instance, we've already committed to being open for the Mardi Gras celebration (March 6).
"We're still debating whether we'll have a buffet or a one-trip meal with choices of entrees and vegetables. We'll decide once we get a chance to look at the space. We will, though, serve upstairs and downstairs."
Both partners say time will be of the essence at Cafe 230.
"Both Sarah and I are used to working high volume and getting folks their food quickly," Fletcher said. "I'm used to it (at Ole Times), and Sarah is even more so at MillerCoors. But we can promise folks they'll be in and out.
"We're probably going to bring only one person over from Ole Times, so we'll be adding a whole new staff, creating new jobs. I believe if people know they can get a nice hot meal with fresh vegetables and not have to hock their children to pay for it, and then they can leisurely walk or drive back to work, then they're going to be happy."
As for the naysayers who claim businesses can't make it downtown?
"We're going to work with everybody -- the RiverQuarium, city employees, county employees, everyone in the downtown area," Fletcher said. "We're going to be very affordable, and we're going to be efficient.
"I believe we can make this work. I truly believe, and I don't mind putting it out there: If we can't make it downtown, nobody can."