Feb. 23—A local entrepreneur is determined to grow her restaurant business when she relocates to the former bar space at Murphy's Landing in downtown Middletown.
Naiyozcsia Thomason, better known as Mz. Jade, has been operating Mz. Jade's Soul Food at 1105 Central Ave. in the Pendleton Arts Center for the past year.
Sometime in mid-March, Thomason is planning a "grand re-opening" at the new location at 6 S. Broad St., just around the corner from the Pendleton Arts Center.
Last week, Middletown City Council approved a $10,000 Small Business Entrepreneurial Assistance Micro-Grant to cover start-up costs for Mz. Jade's Soul Food at the new location.
After conversations with Linda Moorman, who co-owns BeauVerre-Riordan Studio with her husband, Jay, Thomason said she "thought it would be a great idea" as Murphy's Landing had closed a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moorman told the Journal-News that it was decided to convert the main dining area into an event center for small parties and other functions.
"When opportunity knocks, you have to open the door," Thomason said. "Middletown is the place to be. I am humbled and grateful that city was so helpful."
Thomason will lease the bar and grill section of Murphy's Landing and will be available for catering services for the event center.
"This is what I've been longing for," Thomason said. "We're looking forward to growing our business and working with the economic development department."
Thomason said she originally opened a restaurant on Yankee Road. She left that space in May 2019 due to building issues. In September 2019, she and a friend opened Fresh Café in Monroe until it closed in 2020. In March 2020, she moved to the Pendleton space.
"I think this is awesome," Thomason said. "We've worked through the pandemic."
She said the family business is going to expand, and she hopes to hire more servers and workers in other roles. Starting out, she said the business will continue to offer take-out and delivery service via GrubHub and DoorDash before transitioning to a sit-down restaurant as the COVID-19 restrictions are lessened.
According to Chris Xeil Lyons, city economic development director, the agreement says that Thomason needs to stay in business in Middletown a minimum of two years. If the business closes, ownership of the equipment purchased will revert to the city of Middletown.
"This is a great project to support a woman and minority-owned business," Lyons said. "She has a great following on social media and brings many visitors into downtown Middletown."
Thomason told city officials she also plans to work with Butler Tech and Middletown City Schools to work with students and allow them to earn credits and Safe Serve certification by learning and volunteering at her restaurant.
"I'm excited for what the future is going to be," Thomason said. "It's beautiful over there and we're going bring a lot of people to Middletown."