Meadowlark founder cancels plans for new restaurant in Springboro. Here’s why.  

Published: Tuesday, December 03, 2019 @ 8:02 AM

Elizabeth Wiley says cost estimates for buildout forced her to pull the plug on the project.

The founder of Meadowlark and Wheat Penny restaurants has reluctantly shelved her plans to open a third restaurant in the Settler’s Walk retail center that also houses Dorothy Lane Market’s Springboro store.

“That project is not going forward,” Elizabeth Wiley told this news outlet late Monday, referring to her plans for a new Meadowlark-style restaurant to be built out in a 5,000-square-foot space at 720 N. Main St. in Springboro. “And the reason is money.”

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The retail space is in a relatively new wing of the Settler’s Walk retail center and has not had a previous tenant. Wiley said the relatively large space would have required a complete build-out, and some contractor cost estimates for the project reached $1.5 million.

“It was going to be very expensive,” the restaurateur said.

Labor and materials for such construction projects are both in short supply now, in part because of natural disasters throughout the country, including the Dayton area’s Memorial Day tornadoes. 

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Wiley had applied for a liquor license for the space back in April, but emphasized then that the project was in its early stages, and she had not signed a lease for the space. No lease was signed.

Norman and Calvin Mayne, who own and operate the three-store Dorothy Lane Market grocery-store chain and own the Settler’s Walk retail center, offered to help  pay for the necessary improvements, but in the end, Wiley said she could not justify the cost of the project.

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“They were gracious and generous, and I’m sorry not to be working with them,” Wiley said of the Maynes.

Wiley made it clear it was a difficult decision.

“We had a vision for that place, and we’re heartbroken that it’s not going to happen,” she said.

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In April, Wiley said she envisioned the unnamed Springboro restaurant to be similar in many ways to Meadowlark, open for lunch and dinner and  perhaps Sunday brunch.

Wiley first made a name for herself at The Winds Cafe in Yellow Springs before opening Meadowlark on Miamisburg-Centerville Road in Washington Twp. in 2004. Seven years later, she moved Meadowlark to Far Hills Avenue in Washington Twp., then went on to open Wheat Penny Oven & Bar on Wayne Avenue in Dayton in 2013.

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Two years ago, Wiley was selected to participate in the James Beard Foundation’s first Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, a five-day intensive training session designed to help women chefs grow their businesses.