Restaurants bank on variety to increase business

W - Alachua Main Street DSCF7588


D.W. Ashton Catery (above) is just one of several eateries on Alachua’s Main Street that is aiming to serve up flavor and variety to satisfy diverse appetites and boost business in the downtown area.

ALACHUA – Monday and Tuesday afternoons for D.W. Ashton Catery now stray from the typical catering routine. Instead of prepping for orders or serving clients, D.W. Ashton invites the public in for lunch service in its reopened café.

D.W. Ashton, along with veteran and new businesses on Alachua’s Main Street, aims to revitalize the area after an economic downturn.

Hoping to bring more attention to Main Street, D.W. Ashton owner Mary Nell Combs restarted her café service. Visitors now have a lighter lunch option when visiting the eatery. Soups, salads and sandwiches are served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We provide quaint dining at a reasonable price, and hopefully it will bring people,” Combs said.

Originally, D.W. Ashton Catery, formerly called P’diddles, provided both catering and lunch services regularly, but as the catering business took off, juggling both became too much. Combs said the decision to close the café, located at 14816 Main Street, was a hard one, but she had a stable business catering for clients like the University of Florida football team.

However, as the economic climate changed Combs began to worry about the health of Main Street. Restaurants such as Saga, Los Avena and The Ivy House closed. The street saw less and less traffic.

Combs saw it as a sign of the times and decided to fight it.

“No one should feel like it’s competition,” Combs said. “It’s variety. I think more cafes would be great. We all feed off each other.”

Though the café has only been open a short time, Combs has already seen new faces in her restaurant and on Main Street.

“It’s nice to see old friends, but it’s great to see new faces,” She said.

Another restaurant Main Street business owners hope will bring more people to the street is The Sandbar Seafood and Steak, which will be occupying the empty space at 14841 Main Street.

The Sandbar will offer surf and turf cuisine. Co-owner Dean Waters also hopes to bring residents to Main Street by adding to the variety of dining.

“I believe we’re bringing something to Alachua that they don’t have,” Waters said.

Waters chose Alachua, Main Street in particular, for his business location because he liked the area and said everyone gave him a warm welcome.

Waters hopes to contribute to the Alachua community with The Sandbar and by hiring local residents.

The restaurant plans to open March 4.

Though it is too early to see how the café has affected Combs’ business, the opportunity for reinvention has been positive.

“When you’re in the restaurant business you have to recreate yourself,” she said.

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