Shaun Fiaccone admits he never dreamed of getting a shot at doing business in MidTown's historic Kaiser's building — and was among those shocked to learn that its last tenant, The Grateful Bean Cafe, was to close last month after an 18-year run.
Peter Schaffer, owner of the property, was contemplating closing the restaurant when Fiaccone, owner of Picasso Cafe in Paseo, inquired about renting another building Schaffer owns along Classen Boulevard.
"He called me about renting the old Hot Dog Park," Schaffer said. "This was about two weeks before I decided the 'Bean would be closed. I told him the Hot Dog Park was not available, but that the Grateful Bean may become available."
Fiaccone jumped at the chance to lease the ice cream parlor and restaurant, which was built in 1917. But Fiaccone wouldn't be alone in bidding to open a new restaurant in the building at NW 10 and Walker. Schaffer was besieged with calls once news of the Grateful Bean's closing went public.
"I didn't think, with all the competition for this place, I'd have a shot," Fiaccone said. "But I'm very competitive and I took a stab at it."
Fiaccone presented Schaffer with a story similar to that of Kaiser's and The Grateful Bean. Picasso's opened this past year in a similarly historic area, Paseo, in a building long associated with its previous tenant, Galileo. His landlord, John Belt, as with Schaffer, encouraged reinvention of the space but also wanted to see the building's historic integrity respected.
"There was a lot of interest in the Kaiser building," Schaffer said. "But this gentleman (Fiaccone) expressed a lot of sincere interest. He's a young ambitious go-getter, very bright, very energetic. He wants to continue the Kaiser's tradition — which is the most important reason for someone to be in the Kaiser building."
Maintain the tradition required Fiaccone to keep the soda fountain in place, respect much of the historic architecture, and keep historic photos on the walls.
The exterior facade will undergo no changes other than new awnings and patio seating along the 127-foot north and west frontage.
The operation, however, will be a change from The Grateful Bean. Fiaccone is re-christening the restaurant as Kaiser's American Bistro and introducing a bar operation along part of the soda fountain while still serving ice cream and frozen treats along the east corner of the counter.
"I originally wanted to do a low-country cooking here, but I'm not sure that will work here," Fiaccone said. Instead, he's planning on serving soups, sandwiches and grill items that will stay within the $12 and under price range that appeals to downtowners.
"I believe that good food should be as broad as possible, and the price points we're looking at should allow us to do that," Fiaccone said.
Fiaccone is planning to open the restaurant by October and will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week.
To see a video about the new bistro, go to News