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A local attorney and her husband plan to turn an empty building in downtown Elizabethtown into a business retreat and restaurant which the mayor hopes will serve as a catalyst to attract more businesses.
Roxann and Ronald Smalley purchased 114 E. Dixie Ave. beside the Hardin County Justice Center, which will be transformed into Justice Place, a multi-purpose facility offering everything from food to lounge space and a business center. The facility is scheduled to open June 30, barring renovation delays.
Roxann Smalley said Justice Place will feature a full-service restaurant named Roxie’s that she describes as a cross between Cheddar’s and Panera Bread, offering a full menu, catering services, and delivery to businesses and law offices within a mile of the courthouse.
Smalley said the restaurant likely will be open initially from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, but the city and the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council have encouraged the couple to consider extending evening hours and opening on weekends.
Smalley said they want to start slowly and gauge response to the restaurant before expanding hours.
“We would be open to considering that,” he said.
Mayor Tim Walker said Elizabethtown has researched other cities where downtowns are thriving and found revitalization usually starts with restaurants, which attract specialty shops, retailers and other small businesses.
“We look at it is as a very good recruiting tool,” Walker said.
Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council Executive Director Heath Seymour said the restaurant will seat approximately 50 people and is another bright spot for downtown, which has attracted new businesses in the past year.
Smalley said she wants to provide a convenient haven for business men and women who work downtown and may not have a lot of time during lunch breaks, but she also wants Justice Place to be an asset for the entire community.
Justice Place will feature Wi-Fi access, video conferencing capabilities, a big-screen TV, a private business lounge where attorneys or other professionals can relax and work between meetings, conference space, and meeting rooms that can be reserved for depositions, mediations, conferences or private parties. Justice Place also will house a business center where visitors can access copying, fax, notary and mail services.
And because parking is “horrendous” around the square, Smalley said Justice Place will provide valet parking for restaurant, business center and courthouse visitors.
The nearly 11,000-square-foot facility also will house Smalley’s law offices in the back, which she can access from a side entrance. She said between the restaurant and law office, Justice Place will have a minimum of 15 employees.
The building was a shell when purchased and is being renovated in advance of the June opening date, she said. The couple has worked closely with the city and the Heritage Council and want to preserve historical qualities and features of the building.
The second story, which is roughly 5,400 square feet, also is being renovated and will be filled by the Administrative Office of the Courts for drug court and other programs, Smalley said. She said the AOC will have approximately 15 offices and a separate entrance.
Smalley said God has his hands on the project and is the one who led them to invest in the property through their corporation, DMX Enterprises Inc.
Smalley said she has spoken with attorneys and business men and women who are looking for a place they can go to unwind, eat and work between meetings. Up to now, she pointed them to Panera Bread.
But after passing the empty building one day, Smalley was compelled to stop.
“I just got the feeling that God was telling me this was where I needed to be right here,” she said.
Smalley’s mother has owned and operated a restaurant and Smalley knew there was a need from her own experiences.
There also is a push by city government to revitalize downtown.
Ronald Smalley said his wife approached him with the idea of purchasing the building, which caught him off-guard. However, he said the journey is God-led and they plan to offer an alcohol-free establishment built on value.
“It’s going to be a good Christian atmosphere,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.