CONTEMPORARY TASTE, HISTORIC CHARM
By BRANDON HURLEY
A two-year restoration is poised to usher in downtown’s newest dining establishment.
Greene County native Sarah Ostrander will operate The Centennial, a contemporary restaurant on the Jefferson square at 100 E. State Street.
The 2002 Jefferson-Scranton graduate was named as restauranteur during a special ceremony Tuesday evening, which also led perfectly into her announcement of the restaurant’s long-coveted name reveal.
Ostrander was asked to step in as head chef and business manager by Why Not Us, a group of 45 local women who have pushed to restore The Centennial Block building, on the northwest corner of the square.
Ostrander describes The Centennial restaurant as “contemporary taste with historic charm,” hoping to capture the overall prestige and nostalgia of the corner lot.
“We had nightly discussions for three or four weeks of what we were going to call this place. It’s not just about me, it’s not just about the group. It’s the town, the community,” Ostrander said Tuesday during a brief speech at the Thomas Jefferson Gardens. “We really wanted to give a nod to the building itself which is so historic and beautiful and a pillar of downtown. A combination of all the women and all who supported the project.”
Ostrander’s career is built around the food service industry, first gaining interest in high school before founding the culinary arts program at Indian Hills Community College, where she earned a culinary arts and chef training degree. She’d go on to spend 14 years as the Dallas County Hospital nutrition service manager in addition to work at Hotel Pattee in Perry. She also worked two years as banquet cook for the Marriott Hotel in downtown Des Moines. She most recently held a role as food and nutrition services manager at Clive Behavioral Health.
Ostrander’s varied experience in the food industry created a dream of one day operating her own restaurant, which led her to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business management from William Penn University. She’s currently the Greene County elementary cook as she dives head first into her new restaurant.
A few of Ostrander’s specialities are right in line with the restaurant’s theme – soups and salads, a place for comfort, health and relaxation. The new restaurant won’t stick to solely dine in options either - she has plans for cooking classes, special events and themes as well as various catering opportunities.
“We want to create a unique dining experience with a rotating, seasonal menu,” Ostrander said. “It’s always been a passion of mine to make and serve amazing food. I’m so proud and thankful to bring that to my home community.”
Peg Rainey, Why Not Us president and former executive of Jefferson Matters, feels Ostrander was the perfect fit for a project like this. Bringing another dining establishment to the downtown square - joining Doc’s Stadium, Peony and Junkyard Cafe - was a no-brainer. With Ostrander at the helm, a current Grand Junction citizen and a lifelong Greene County resident, there was no one better for the lead position.
“(Ostrander has worked in healthy environments and understands the interest in healthy options at this new restaurant along with yummy entrées and deserts,” Rainey said Tuesday. “She’s positively delightful with a personality that lights up a room and has a contagious upbeat attitude. We know the whole county is going to be thrilled to have her here.”
The Centennial building itself will feature two apartments above the restaurant. The Why Not Us group received a $75,000 grant for restorations of the former Angie’s Tea Garden, also using the 50/50 match for facade improvements. Angie’s initially was expected to return before a change of ownership allowed the city to step in and shift in a new direction.
The entire roof was replaced in an effort to help the building last. The city of Jefferson has also submitted an application to the state historic preservation office to hopefully transition the centennial building into a contributing building status for Jefferson’s Historic Downtown District, which would make way for historic tax credits.
Westbrooke Construction of Urbandale has been hired as building contractor.
“We can see that this company is passionate about seeing this project through to the end and has experience with rehabilitation of historic buildings,” Rainey said.
Ostrander and company are shooting for a spring opening.