One of Rome’s historic old downtown buildings, at 233 Broad St., has been sold, but the business on the bottom floor — John Henry’s Grill — will remain in place.
The building has been purchased by Michal and Mandi Zelenak, who said they are excited about the opportunity to move back to downtown Rome.
John Henry’s Grill, owned by Eric Tant, will continue to occupy the first floor. The interesting bit is that the restaurant played into the Zelenak’s decision to move back downtown.
“I think he has upgraded his restaurant really well,” Michal Zelenak said. “He has good clients with his prices and the quality of the food, so we really like everything he is doing.”
The building had been owned by Downtown Development Authority Chairman Bob Blumberg, who sold his restaurant there, Lyrikz, to Tant over a year ago.
Years ago, the building was the downtown location of JC Penney. Rome Area History Center Director Selena Tilly said the original building on the site was destroyed by a fire that demolished half the block around 1911. When the block was rebuilt, it was originally three storefronts. Around the middle of the century, it was combined into the one building.
Zelenak originally hails from the Czech Republic but his wife, Mandi, is originally from Rome. They came to Rome together in 2018 for his job with OTR Wheel Engineering, and lived downtown for about six months before finding a home on Horseleg Creek Road.
Zelenak said he and his wife are really happy with the way Blumberg renovated the upper level of the building for living space.
“There is still potential to build another bedroom upstairs, which were are considering a little later,” Zelenak said. “The Rome downtown is the nicest one I’ve seen in this size of a city.”
Zelenak said the walkability of downtown and the ability to enjoy bikes rides on the trails were other big factors in their decision to return to the district.
Meanwhile, Tant said John Henry’s Grill is “rocking and rolling” and has come out of the pandemic in as good a shape as possible. He opened the restaurant last spring, about the same time the pandemic was getting a solid grip on the Coosa Valley.
“We just had to be real smart with our money, that’s all we could do,” Tant said. “The community has been very supportive. As far as people coming through the door, it’s been good.”
He said that there are still some supply chain issues for food products and he’s still not 100% staffed.
“Hiring is an issue,” Tant said. “In the last two weeks we’ve see a spike of applications coming in, so it’s getting better.”
The sale of the property was handled by Michelle Rikard and Bill Summer, both of Hardy Realty.