Husband and wife culinary team Avram and Kristin Steuber are about to go on their second entrepreneurial quest together.
For the past four and a half years, the pair have operated Twin Bistro & Catering inside the Panorama apartment towers in Covington. They recently decided to close that operation in favor of a larger endeavor, one that will occupy a space near the riverfront that has been vacant for years.
"We were married and I made him go to culinary school," Kristin said of Avram. Five years ago she was working in sales at the Covington Marriott and he was working as a chef in a Kroger bistro. Kristin lost her job in the recession and they always liked the restaurant industry so when a space became available where Proverbs coffee used to operate at Panorama, the Steubers took a chance.
"We thought, sure, why not?," Kristin said.
"It was very low risk," Avram said. Rent was cheap, the space was already equipped, and the customer base either lived upstairs or worked across the street at the IRS.
"We were very successful from the start. We served the building, the courthouse, the IRS people," Kristin said. They also did a lot of catering for Gateway Community & Technical College.
But then the Mutter Gottes neighborhood residents started thinking bigger. "It just got to be not what we wanted to do," she said.
They started looking around for a standalone space to house their next venture and found it at the corner of Second & Garrard Streets in a one-story building with a modern facade next to the Roebling Suspension Bridge. It last housed an audio & visual company and is owned by Corporex, the developer behind the skyscrapers along the city's riverfront chaired by Bill Butler.
"We were looking for a new opportunity and we kept hearing about this spot down here," Kristin said. They explained their concept to Butler who had his own vision for the space. "They actually lined up together, we had the same kind of vision. He wanted a deli and the pizza. It worked well together."
And that's what it will be: part upscale deli, part brick oven pizza, and part retail grocer with items made by local bakers and makers. They are working closely with the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen.
Avram said the plan is that a customer will walk in and see a brick oven as a focal point. The new shelving will showcase the local products and also serve as decor. The deli will feature nitrate-free meats and there will be a carry-out window, but not a drive-thru like the sign outside the building currently advertises.
Alcohol will also be sold and served.
The Steubers don't yet have a name for this concept. They are working closely with BLDG, the creative firm on Pike Street, which will develop a name, branding, and atmosphere. Construction on the interior is to start any day now and the couple hopes to be open in September or October.
In the meantime, the Steubers are busy raising their 15-month old daughter, Leah, and planning the new business's startegy and operations. Kristin, a Villa Hills native, and Avram, from Hebron originally, met in Louisville where Kristin attended college. They decided to move to Covington from their first home in Burlington after opening Twin Bistro. The commute was taking a toll and they saved $500 a month on gas.
When the time came to look for a new place for their new business, the Reubers were committed to staying in the city. "I knew we could do more and I wanted to stay in Covington," Kristin said. "I think Covington has so much potential."
"I feel like lately they've gone in a better direction. I see it coming back and I want to be a part of it. I love Covington. With the Banks (development in Cincinnati) and everything they have going on right down the road from where we're going to be, I think it can work out for everybody."
Story & photo by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News