As their family has grown, so has Louie’s at the original Collin’s Pointe location. At 1,400 square feet with seating for 32, the restaurant at 921 A Joe Frank Harris Parkway is feeling a bit tight for the Sprague’s growing business.
To meet growing demand, Louie’s Cafe will soon relocate to the downtown business district in a move that will more than double their current size. Construction is underway now to renovate the future home of Louie’s on the triangular block formed by the intersections of Gilmer, Main and Tennessee streets.
Rather than moving into an existing space, the Spragues will take attributes from two buildings and combine them into a single structure. The former home of Johnny Mitchell’s Smokehouse Express will serve as a 1,400-square-foot kitchen connected to a former gym, which will now host a 65-seat dining room and adjoining conference room. The downtown restaurant also will feature outdoor seating for between 30 and 40 guests when completed.
“We just decided it was time to move. We’ve outgrown our space. Our catering business has outgrown our kitchen and our capacity for seating is limited,” Will Sprague said. “We were seeking a place that was more visible; we looked at many locations, but finally decided on this one.
“We said, ‘Why don’t we just punch a hole through the wall and join the two together and take one with good visibility, the other with parking and plenty of space and merge them together into one?’ So that’s what we’ve done. We’ve built a breezeway between them and the building that was Johnny Mitchell’s will be our kitchen. ... The whole other side will be dining space with a conference room.”
Although space necessitated the move, the Spragues have sought ways to set their new location apart by putting effort and attention into details of the building’s renovation and design, including period restoration and a grand piano in the dining room.
“This has been fun for us,” Will Sprague said. “I mean, who has a grand piano playing in their restaurant unless you’re on the 15th floor in Buckhead. It’ll be classy, but comfortable. I’m excited.
“Actually, the piano was built about the same period as the building. The building that’s the dining room was built around 1900; they don’t know exactly when, but it was in photographs in 1909. It was originally a carriage house, big iron beams, it’s all original — it’s beautiful. We’ve really enjoyed being a part of the building. So we thought it’d be nice to tie the piano in, give it a nostalgic look.”
The Spragues’ attention to detail has even been noticed by city of Cartersville employees who have worked with Louie’s on necessary permitting. With May being National Historic Preservation Month, City Planner Richard Osbourne has been glad to see historic accents incorporated into the downtown building. Since work began on the building that will be the Louie’s Cafe dining room, even more has become known about the location, including some insight from a city map dated 1927.
“Until Will started improving this building, city staff and others did not know just how historic this building was,” Osbourne said. “City staff has access to the Sanborn maps. The Sanborn Co. out of New York, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, made fire insurance maps for cities across the nation and city staff has access to the 1927 maps for Cartersville. This building shows up on the 1927 maps as an auto sales and service building and Will has, in all sections of the building, worked hand in hand with the Historic Preservation Commission to both revitalize the building and do good work that will be quality in design and functional for his restaurant.”
The expansion to downtown also will usher in an expanded menu and hours of operation. The new location also will be available for event use, including reunions, corporate functions and rehearsal dinners. Louie’s Cafe will likely have to close dining room operation for about a week during the transition, but catering will still be available.
Catering has fast become a significant portion of the restaurant’s business and one that the Spragues enjoy. Cooking for events allows the couple to expand far beyond their daily fare.
“We love to cook high-end food, it’s just really hard to sell on a daily basis,” Will Sprague said of the restaurant’s catering operation, describing an all-nighter he worked delivering food to retailers on Black Friday. “That’s why I say, ‘We’re open 24 hours a day,’ because people think we’re just breakfast and lunch, but we have crab-stuffed tilapia, spiral sliced ham. Tonight I just did tomato-curry chicken.
“Catering is a large portion of our business and we want to continue to grow that in Bartow as well as Cobb, Floyd and Cherokee with the ability to cater events up to 750 people.”
Along with expanding catering operations, long-term plans for Louie’s include franchising and eventually opening for dinner as well. With interest already expressed for a couple of franchise locations, the Spragues see the new downtown location being similar to Chick-fil-A’s Dwarf House — a full-service, expanded version of the franchise modeled off of the current Louie’s Cafe.
Louie’s Cafe is expected to open at its new location, 117 S. Tennessee St., in mid-June. Hours will be Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit www.louiescafeonline.com or call 770-334-2135.