Marysville residents curious about the new restaurant taking over the old Doc Henderson's location are on the right track. From the logo to the decor, everything about Hinkley's restaurant, 318 E. Fifth St., is designed to evoke curiosity.
Honda of Marysville owner Bruce Daniels partnered with Biff Eschenbrenner when Robert Meeder Sr., the owner of Doc Henderson's, decided last year it was time to retire. Daniels bought the building in September.
Hinkley's opened quietly June 4.
Daniels said his main reason for buying the building and continuing its fine dining tradition is to promote economic growth and development in Marysville.
"It doesn't have anything to do with a personal want and desire to be a restaurateur. I sell and service cars. But I do believe if our economy continues to improve and prosper by a better Uptown, then we can expand and improve in the automobile business. Not to mention the fact that, even though there have been times of trials and tribulations, it truly excites the daylights out of me," Daniels said. "It's pretty fun stuff."
The name and logo -- a purple rabbit with a timepiece around its neck -- are a whimsical nod to Daniels' great-grandfather, Leon Hinkley, a general store owner and operator who had a sense of humor and love of sales matched only by Daniels himself. The rabbit is incorporated into the overall brand and is a reference to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the curious, colorful journey she took in Lewis Carroll's book, according to Eschenbrenner.
The business partners set out to design a restaurant that's almost as colorful. Vibrant artwork covers the walls. Nods to the historic home's past give each room its own character but maintain a modern feel.
"It celebrates art; it celebrates Marysville and its history. It basically tells stories of Marysville and places in Marysville. It's not just a bunch of old pictures we framed and stuck up on the wall," Daniels said.
A painting of Cornelia Fairbanks, the wife of former president Teddy Roosevelt's vice president, Charles Fairbanks, stretches two stories along the staircase to the second-floor dining area.
The room that once served as the library is now a cozy nook covered with wallpaper that mimics hundreds of books on shelves. In an acknowledgment of the home's supposedly ghostly past, one room has clear plastic chairs hanging overhead, as if something is making the chairs float.
Built in 1884 by Dr. David W. Henderson, the house was long a showplace and center of civic activities. Now, local legend tells of sightings of a "black shadowy figure and an eerie feeling" in the house. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The remodel took five months, said Eschenbrenner, who serves as Hinkley's general manager.
A 35-year veteran of the hotel and restaurant business, Eschenbrenner helped Meeder open Doc Henderson's in 2005, started Victory's in Columbus' Brewery District, served as general manager of Lindey's in German Village, started Cherry Valley Lodge in Newark and worked as director at the Hilton Columbus at Easton.
"I've had a wonderful career, and I've enjoyed every day of it. I'm one of those lucky people that gets up every morning and does what they love to do," he said.
"We wanted to create a restaurant that, if we stuck it right in the middle of (the) Short North (in Columbus), it would be successful. We wanted to take what would work in the Short North and put it in Marysville in that beautiful old house, but also have it celebrate and complement Marysville and what Marysville really is," Daniels said.
The restaurant's website calls the menu "local fare transformed with southern flair." Entrees include a house burger, ancho chili rubbed short ribs, steaks, a wild boar rack, and a black-eyed pea and wild rice cake. Entrees cost between $14 and $29. Soups, salads and appetizers are $4 to $14.
"The biggest and most important thing about the place, along with good food, good service and good atmosphere, is every food product is local. If you're eating a salad or steak or whatever you're having, it is fresh as fresh can be and local as local can be," Daniels said.
"The steaks and the hamburger come from about five or six miles from here," Eschenbrenner said.
The only thing not local is the seafood. Oysters arrive from Chesapeake Bay within 24 hours of being harvested, and the shrimp comes from North Carolina.
The restaurant serves dinner only and is open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.