About a decade ago local residents were able to get a unique culinary experience on the corner of 16th and Wood streets in East Wheeling, and a development firm from western Pennsylvania plans to offer sort of the same opportunity.
The former location of the Keg und Kraut at 167 Wood St. will soon be the home of the Friendly City’s only brick-oven pizza restaurant, according to the proposal presented to the city of Wheeling’s Development Committee by Andrew Yetter and Mark Kennison.
Yetter also has communicated to city officials an interest in the re-purposing of three buildings near the intersection of 14th and Market streets, but Wolfe & Yetter Development jumped on this project because it represents a more immediate opportunity. The city will transfer the 10 parcels of property to the municipal government’s business arm, Ohio Valley Area Development Corp., and then will turn possession over to Wolfe & Yetter.
“City Council is set to read and approve ordinances that will lead to the transfer of the parcels, and their plan involves residential and commercial spaces,” explained Tom Connelly, assistant director of the city’s Economic and Development Department. “The timeline is one year for the residential property, and then after that we understand the work will be performed on the commercial spaces.
“There are benchmarks that will need to be met for the development company so the city can be certain that the re-development that was proposed will be taking place as planned. If not, the city always includes a reversion clause in the contract with the developer,” he continued. “The city has triggered the reversion clause in the past, but those situations have included the cooperation from the developers.”
The 10 parcels include four buildings and three vacant lots along 16th Street, and an apartment building at 169 Wood St. as well as two more vacant lots. The plan owned by the development firm includes four phases and will begin with façade improvements and the renovation of a three-apartment, three-story building adjacent to the commercial space. A small portion of the two structures that line 16th Street will be demolished, but, some of the current green space will be converted into an outdoor dining area, and other vacant lots will be paved and utilized for patron parking.
“When I walked through the building, I saw an asset that wasn’t being utilized,” Yetter said. “And I saw a lot of potential with the J.B. Chambers Recreation Park directly across Wood Street because it’s really one of the first things that you see when coming off the highway.
“We have encountered only great memories of the Keg und Kraut from those who remember that restaurant, so one of our goals is to recognize it as we go through the process of re-developing,” he added. “We want to give a nod to that history, but we also plan to change the corner a good bit, and that will involve outdoor seating on a pretty large patio area.”
Kennison built the brick oven in the Upper Crust Italian Bistro in Washington, Pa., but this time the partners plan to construct it in a way that will allow for more customer participation.
“This will be the fifth restaurant that Mark will be opening in his development career, and this will be his second brick oven,” Yetter said. “But this time we want to do it the way we always wanted to. This time we will own the building, but the last time we were tenants, so we couldn’t really construct the oven in a way that would allow it to be a more interactive experience for the customers.
“The way this one will be set up will allow the customers to watch the process and to see with their own eyes the fresh ingredients that will be used,” he continued. “You’ll be watching the chef toss your dough, and you’ll see it go into the oven, and you’ll be able to watch it cook. We believe the people will really enjoy that experience.”
The restaurant, Yetter explained, will offer additional menu items, a full beverage menu, and even scoops of gelato, an Italian ice cream made with a base of milk, cream, sugar, and flavored with fresh fruits and nut purees.
“We have not finalized the interior layout yet, but we have discussed a window so the kids can come for the ice cream,” he said. “But even if that doesn’t work out in the final plan, we will definitely be equipped for to-go orders for anyone who doesn’t have the time to come inside the restaurant.
“We would also love to do delivery for the lunchtime because we believe that would prove to be a big asset to the business,” he said. “Plus, the location is only a few streets away from thousands of employees working within the downtown district Monday through Friday.”
The partners are considering installing a pick-up window for those who are attending events at the neighboring athletic facility.
The name of the eatery has yet to be officially selected, but a couple of possibilities currently are on the table.
“We are still thinking of using the name ‘The Upper Crust’ because it’s an expanding company right now, and it has a great reputation in Washington, Pa.,” Yetter explained. “The only other name that we have tossed around as of now is ‘The Brick & Mortar,’ but we’ve not really discussed a lot as of yet.
“No matter what the name may be, we definitely plan to celebrate Wheeling’s history and its future inside and outside the buildings. And the outside is going to be lit up, and there will be a lot of new landscaping,” he said. “What we want to accomplish is to redevelop this property into something the residents of East Wheeling can be proud of and into something that visitors to Wheeling will be impressed with.”
Wolfe & Yetter Development, Yetter said, will continue to search for more possible projects in the Wheeling area, and the partners remain interested in redeveloping three buildings the city purchased in 2015.
But first is the transformation of the former Keg und Kraut into a brick-oven pizza restaurant and residential living.
“Once the properties are officially transferred to us by the city, we plan to get to work immediately,” he added. “Once we do, the people of Wheeling will see a vast amount of improvement taking place on that corner.
“I love Wheeling, and I don’t know how else to say it,” Yetter said. “I love the architecture, I love the history, and I love the people here in Wheeling. That’s why I always ask, ‘Why not Wheeling?’ All I see is potential.”
(Photos by Steve Novotney)