After acquiring nearly 2 acres near the corner of Chestnut Expressway and National Avenue, a pair of sisters are making good on longtime dreams of owning a restaurant together.
Through their company, The Sisters LLC, Renee Textor and Sheri Perkins are aiming to open The Table at the Mill, a casual-dining concept serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, roughly a year from now. They are working with architect H Design Group LLC on plans for a 4,200-square-foot building on property that also includes a long-vacant 13-story mill that is most notable for a large mural depicting the birth of Jesus.
Textor estimates construction costs of $2 million for the restaurant, adding total project expenses are still being determined.
“It’s all one open-space concept,” Perkins said, noting they’ve drawn inspiration from several eateries, particularly The Russell Restaurant LLC in Kansas City. “Retail will be a tiny part of one end, and the restaurant will be the majority of it.”
The sisters are working on the financing aspect of the development with hopes to put the project out for bid later this month. They intend to break ground by early next year.
“The timeline of people in construction, we’re obviously going to be at their mercy,” Textor said.
While having a large mill and nearby silo serve as a backdrop for a commercial development, Textor said the 1.9-acre property they bought for $265,000 from Randy West wasn’t initially on their radar.
“It wasn’t in our original plan to have a new build,” she said.
The siblings said opening a restaurant with a retail space was a shared goal, but timing was frequently an issue.
“We had always wanted to do something together, and we just felt like it was time. We talked about it last November,” Textor said, adding Perkins told her she would exit her longtime job as executive director of programming at The Courageous Church earlier this year.
Springfield residents since 1981, Perkins said she and her sister grew up on the north side. While the two have no personal connection to the mill, which has been out of operation for decades and subjected over the years since to graffiti, she said the high-profile location has long attracted her as a potential site for a restaurant.
“My whole life, I remember driving by there and being intrigued by it,” she said. “It’s iconic with Springfield, and everybody knows where it is.”
The sisters say their research of the property indicates the mill was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s. According to Springfield-Greene County Library archives, the John F. Meyer & Sons Milling Co. built the flour mill in 1901 at the corner of what was then National Boulevard and Pine Street. John Sellars, executive director emeritus at History Museum on the Square, said he also believed the mill was there since at least 1900 and before the property was annexed into the city, which was in 1910, according to city records.
It later became Springfield Flour Mill and was purchased in 1951 by the MFA Milling Co., according to a December 1951 story by Springfield Leader & Press, now the Springfield News-Leader.
Upon becoming aware at the start of the year that the property was for sale, Perkins said she was immediately interested. She compiled a list of 12 properties for her and Textor to visit, and the first stop was the former mill site.
“We decided from that moment we weren’t going to pursue anything else until we follow this lead up and see where it goes,” Textor said.
“And that’s the only lead we’ve been on,” Perkins added. “It’s the only one we’ve looked at.”
As for the old mill, there are no current plans to make it part of the project, the sisters say. But they plan to keep the structures in place.
“We’re going to clean it up, but it will remain there,” Perkins said.
Springfield City Council in September approved a zoning change request for The Sisters LLC to highway commercial from single-family residential, which Perkins said allowed for retail and restaurant use.
The Table will feature counter service with food brought to customers. Alcohol also will be for sale, but the women stress the venture won’t be a bar.
“We haven’t secured our menu, but we’re in the sampling process,” Textor said, noting protein bowls are one option they are exploring.
The site, which is just east of a Kum & Go store, should have parking for at least 40 spaces, she said.
“Our goal is to be open by Thanksgiving of next year. Our architect said that’s confidently an option,” Perkins said. “We would love to break ground by the end of the year, but we’ll see.”
There’s no plan to rent any retail space to vendors, but the sisters say they’d be interested in having local artists hang and sell their work. Additionally, they’re looking at a “purchase with a purpose” area in the building in which product sales benefit nonprofits, Perkins said.
Neither sister has previous experience working in restaurants, although Textor said she was employed for seven years as an accounting associate for Panera Bread. Since then, she’s been out of the workforce for the past 10 years, focused on helping care for her grandchildren. But now she and Perkins are turning their full-time professional focus to The Table – a gathering place they’re excited to bring to fruition.
The siblings admit it’s been a learning experience to embark on a first-time ownership project but are glad to have each other to lean on.
“It kind of came quicker than we imagined because I just had a career change,” Perkins said. “The doors keep opening and we just keep taking steps.”
Textor added: “Do we know everything that we’re doing now? No, but we’re not scared to go forward together.”
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.