TOLEDO, Ohio — The inside of the building at the corner of Summit Street and Jefferson Avenue is mostly dirt, but that's about to change fast.
Detroit-based restaurant Bobcat Bonnie's is opening its first Ohio establishment in the downtown Fort Industry Square redevelopment. The restaurant will occupy over 7,000 square feet, and owner Matt Buskard plans to open by August.
"We ended up looking at Fort Industry Square and we wanted to get to Toledo quick," Buskard said. "We thought it was a market we could really hit hard and a market that would be as excited about us as we are about it."
Buskard had Toledo on his radar for over a year and visited several potential sites. He was eyeing another location, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and plans were put on hold.
He said things worked out "perfectly," and he's thrilled about the Fort Industry Square project. He was complimentary of the site's developers, Richard Karp and Kevin Prater.
"We're pumped about it," Buskard said. "Every detail has been so well thought out. Every historical touch has been considered. They have so many people working on this project."
Bobcat Bonnie's will be located on the main level, and a bar and arcade concept called Keystone will occupy the basement. The lower level will have access in the back of the building.
Keystone will feature easy finger food and vintage pinball and arcade games made to feel like "your fun uncle's basement."
Brandon Sehlhorst, Toledo commissioner of economic development, said the establishment will fit in well with the mixed-use development and overall downtown landscape.
"They approached us about a year ago and I thought they would make a great addition downtown," Sehlhorst said. "They bring a concept to downtown we don't really have. Bringing that to the new Fort Industry Square is a showcase piece to highlight that development."
Bobcat Bonnie's is known for its gaudy brunch lineup and was named one of the best 24 brunches in America by Thrillist in 2019. Customers can enjoy an array of pancakes, waffles, breakfast sandwiches and burritos, and Bonnie's smothered potatoes, which have been showcased on the Food Network.
When it's safe, the restaurant will bring back its bloody Mary and mimosa bar, and build your own coffee bar.
"We do it over-the-top," Buskard said. "We play 80s and 90s music. It's loud, it's boozy. People like options and they like to have fun, and that's really what our brunch is geared toward."
Buskard thinks indoor dining will make a strong comeback post-pandemic, and he's encouraged by the progress the state is making. He knows the downtown restaurant is in the thick of activity, something he's prepared for.
"I know Toledo gets very excited about its Mud Hens," he said. "We can't wait for things to open up and we can see all our baseball and hockey friends. To be in that area is going to be insane, but I'm excited to take on the challenge."
Sehlhorst said more local and national tenants are eying Fort Industry Square and announcements could happen in the coming months. He said there are 17 businesses downtown that have just opened or are in the process of opening, a sign economic development momentum is continuing despite the pandemic.