Zach Bynum and James Lemon are probably not the only ones who pictured the corner space inside downtown Moab’s historic Cooper-Martin Building as the perfect place for a new restaurant.
But they’ll soon become the first people to see their daydreams come true.
Some time this spring, the two business partners are planning to open The Spoke, a gourmet burger joint inside the former Slickrock Café space at the northwest corner of Main and Center streets.
The Spoke’s emphasis on burgers – as well as milkshakes and fries – might not be the most original concept for a restaurant, Bynum acknowledged. But he and Lemon said they wanted to stick with “really good” food that appeals to locals and visitors alike.
“Gourmet burgers are our staple, but we’ll have some healthy options for the hikers,” Lemon said.
While they’re fine-tuning their menu right now, Lemon said that one of those options will include hormone-free, grass-fed beef from free-ranging cows. They will also serve vegetarian and gluten-free menu items, including soups and salads; hand-cut fries will be another house specialty.
“It will be a little bit different than what a majority of (local) restaurants are serving,” Lemon said.
They hope to use local produce as much as possible, although Bynum noted that it won’t necessarily be available year-round.
“If it’s something that we can do, we definitely want to do it, but it’s not going to be a complete farm-to-table project,” he said.
The Spoke has already shown its commitment to buying regional products: According to Bynum, he and Lemon have worked with food distributor Sysco Corp. to line up Utah-raised beef for their burgers.
“They’ve sourced meat for us from a ranch up in Orem,” Bynum said.
In February, they’ll ask state regulators for a full-service liquor license, which would allow them to serve beer and spirits. If their request is approved, Bynum said their beer list will be heavy on Moab- and Utah-brewed products.
“We’re trying to have locally sourced beer,” he said.
Both partners come to the new venture with a background in Moab’s hospitality industry: Bynum is the general manager of the Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn, while Lemon is the local manager of Pasta Jay’s.
John Young is currently working with the pair to renovate the 1907-era building, while Bynum’s brother helped out in another key way: He came up with the restaurant’s name.
“With all of the biking that goes on around Moab, we thought that it would be fun to play off of,” Bynum said.
The bicycling theme will carry over into the new restaurant’s decor, with chandeliers made out of bicycle parts, and bicycles will figure prominently into other design features.
Bynum said that he and Lemon plan to remodel the building in a way that honors its history, while giving it a fresh feel.
“We’re going to redo pretty much the whole interior,” he said.
The renovation work will leave the century-old brick walls exposed, while making room for a new kitchen and a new dining area. In the weeks to come, they plan to demolish an unsightly interior staircase that serves as an obstacle more than anything else; they will replace it with a new staircase along the building’s right wall.
Once the upgrades are complete, the new restaurant space will seat about 130 people on two levels.
“It will be a more inviting space, is our hope,” Bynum said.
Bynum sees the Cooper-Martin Building as an ideal location for a new restaurant.
“I think that being in downtown Moab is great for all of the foot traffic there will be in the summertime,” Bynum said.
At the same time, Lemon said he’s excited for the chance to give the space a new life: Remodels of newer buildings in downtown Moab are rare enough, he said, but projects like this one are few and far between.
“It doesn’t happen all that often,” Lemon said.
From his vantage point just across Center Street, Bynum often looked at the building and thought that it was a shame to see the empty space just sitting there through the busy 2014 visitor season. Today, however, Lemon believes that it’s destined for a better future.
“It’s a historic building that just needs a good restaurant in it,” Lemon said. “It’s been a long time.”
The wait is not quite over, though. Bynum predicts that the new restaurant won’t be in business for at least another two months. However, once it opens its doors this spring, he hopes that Moab residents will drop by and say hello.
“New restaurants are always exciting for the locals who want to find a new place to eat and try, so hopefully, everyone will come and check it out,” he said.
Gourmet burger joint to open in historic Cooper-Martin Building this spring
“New restaurants are always exciting for the locals who want to find a new place to eat and try, so hopefully, everyone will come and check it out.”