Here’s a tangy piece of industry chatter: Susan Seiler, former owner of Jack Fry’s, has a new concept, Relish.
Confirming that with her has been impossible, however. She’s been as elusive as a politician in a high-profile pickle.
Like an adult game of “Where’s Waldo?” gone on far too long, we can’t find her to confirm that she’s the mind behind the 1346 River Road restaurant supposed to open this fall. (Note to Al Qaeda: You should have consulted Seiler when trying to hide Bin Laden.)
As you can see in that award-winning picture to the upper right, it’s just a matter of time before it happens. But is Seiler really the one who’s behind it?
Word on the street from multiple sources is so abundant that we’re gambling on gab and saying Seiler (who owned Jack Fry’s from 1986 to 2008), is the one, returning to the restaurant game after a four-year hiatus.
Nothing sour in that serving of gossip since it would be nothing but sweet to see Relish run by one of the sharpest restaurateurs the ‘Ville has ever had.
Last we talked to the lady was at the Casa Grisanti reunion dinner at Corbett’s in 2009 (see equally horrible photo below right), a full year after she sold Jack Fry’s to an equally cool gal, Stephanie Meeks.
In that post-sale “the stress is gone” period, Seiler said she was enjoying retirement and traveling the world, even consulting with other operators between trips.
However, those who know her have sensed for some time that she’d return to the business—not out of need for money or to prove anything, but because she’s the type who likes a challenge.
At 57, she’s likely not lost her relentless drive and good health—nor her access to capital—so why not? Everyone else is doing it.
Can she do it? Can she get back to the grueling pace of the restaurant business and birth this new idea and make it hum?
If anyone can, Seiler can. However, we expect the wisdom of her career and age to manifest itself in the form of a businesswoman who guides and coaches talented hires, not gripes at them over spotty silverware or misplaced parsley sprigs. She knows how to train others on such persnickety pointers.
Her site choice is interesting to say the least: a largely vacant concrete corridor of River Road that will see a condo complex spring up a year or two from now.
Save for Relish’s next door neighbor, Stop Light Liquors and a non-descript cafe in the building strip center, there is no business that generates foot traffic. So where are the crowds going to come from?
One source is the high volume of traffic flowing out of the well-heeled East End, past Relish and into downtown. Our guess is the headed-home crowd will be the source for customers.
Interestingly, since Seiler is super-shrewd, competitors (and food writers alike) have to be thinking, “What does she know about this location that we don’t?”
One might assume any business setting up shop on that stretch is betting on the come since it will take a long time for residential and business properties to populate the area.
Still, one need only look at the decades-long success of Stop Light to prove it’s a viable place to be.
Bottom line: We wanted to be the first to say, “Welcome back, Susan. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next!”