[image-1]If you read Eater or Post & Courier’s Cuisine section on the regular, by now you know the building at 1 Broad St. — a former bank, or should I say many banks — is about to become Mike Ray of Normandy Farm’s new restaurant. For the past two years, Ray (who also owns 19 Broad’s Bar Normandy) and partner Mark Beck have been retrofitting the 1853 Italian Renaissance Revival building. Now Ray plans to open the first floor as an all-day “Upper East Side Waffle House” come late spring.
But one clarification. Unlike previous reports, the restaurant will not be called The Room. Instead, Ray says that the place, like all of his restaurants, will have Normandy Farm in the title with some other moniker attached at the end. “We’ll work that out later,” he says.
Ray’s idea with 1 Broad St. is to offer a casual spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while showcasing the palazzo-style of the historic building — and trust me it’s a beauty. In the early aughts, I had the good fortune to see it in its pre-demolition grandeur when I’d cash my paltry freelance checks there. As I recall, the ceiling soared above and the tellers stood behind counter grills designed by famed blacksmith Philip Simmons. While the grills are now gone, Ray says he wants to pay homage to the architectural wonder, listed as a National Historic Landmark. That’s meant studying up on the building’s history.
Thanks to the Charleston County Public Library’s archives, we know that the building was built by State Bank of South Carolina. Of course, it lost its luster in the Civil War when it took heavy shelling — Ray confirms that cannonballs have been found in the basement and rafters still showed char when they began renovation.
In 1868 1 Broad got a facelift thanks to blockade runner and former Treasurer of the Confederacy George Trenholm. But, natch, “the Federal government sued Trenholm and his associates after the war for import duties on the illegal blockade goods and his company went bankrupt.” The building changed hands again in 1875 to another former blockade runner, George Walton Williams, who installed Carolina Savings Bank there.
From Carolina Savings to Bankers Trust of South Carolina to Carolina First, the space has been home to some form of bank or another up until 2006 when the 9,000-square-foot building was purchased by Michael Bennett of Bennett Hospitality. Bennett sold it to Beck in 2014 for $4.8 million, according to the Post & Courier.
Now, after nearly a decade of standing empty, cash will change hands on the property again. But this time it’ll be for bacon, eggs, and smoked white fish salad, rather than deposits.
“Basically it’s something more along the lines of a Russ and Daughters or Tartine in San Francisco,” says Ray. “We’re not getting too far off from what we currently do, but it’ll be more of a sit down space. What we are bringing in is more of that New York breakfast deli.”
What that means for dinner is yet to be determined.
“Dinner will be decided by the chef that we hire,” he says. “There’s gonna be dinner, like Bar Normandy, but we’re not gonna hire a chef like a Mike Lata. This will be Frenchy, brasserie-type cuisine.” Ray hopes to hire a talented young chef who can grow into the role.
But still, another Charleston restaurant opening? Ray acknowledges that it might sound crazy to some, especially with one involving such a large scale renovation, but he thinks it’s a smart move given 1 Broad St. location in the midst of tourist traffic walking East Bay to the Battery.
“We’ve been successful and we want to start a new chapter,” he says.
Look for the yet-to-be named concept at 1 Broad St. to open in May or June.