Owner Plans to Bring Tokyo Restaurant to Downtown EC
meanwhile, plans proceed for Children’s Museum’s new location
The soon-to-be-former Children’s Museum of Eau Claire will be the new home of a beloved local hibachi restaurant as early as next year if plans proceed as anticipated.
Tokyo Japanese Restaurant will relocate to 220 S. Barstow St. by December or January, said Charlee Markquart, who co-owns the restaurant and whose purchase of the museum building for just over $1 million was finalized on Monday, Feb. 1.
Relocating the restaurant will allow it to more than double in size, from about 3,100 square feet to about 6,500 square feet, Marquart said. In addition to providing room for a bar, the additional space will allow Tokyo to expand its menu (hello, sushi!) and its seating. Current plans call for traditional tables as well as the hibachi-side seating that Tokyo customers have enjoyed since the restaurant opened in 1988 at 2426 London Road.
Markquart and his business partner, Ryan Warffuel, bought Tokyo in late 2019 from its founders, Yoshi and Donna Tsuanko. Markquart believes that moving the restaurant downtown – closer to the city’s nightlife, music, and entertainment spots – will help it flourish.
“We’re pretty optimistic,” he said. “The feedback we’ve gotten is overwhelming. The ability to have a bar will generate sales in its own right.”
Museum Moving On
Meanwhile, the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire is proceeding with relocation plans of its own. On the same day it sold its building, it closed on its purchase of the so-called “liner site,” 126 N. Barstow St., from the City of Eau Claire Redevelopment Authority. (Check out this November article for a peek at what the new museum may look like.)
The museum, which closed to the public last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, plans to build a new home on the site, which is located adjacent to the city’s North Barstow Street parking ramp near Phoenix Park. Construction is expected to start on the new museum building later this year, with re-opening planned in 2022. A three-story commercial building, which would include a restaurant, will be built next to the museum.
Until it reopens next year in its new home, the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire plans to operate a temporary site, dubbed “Playspace,” inside the Pablo Center at the Confluence, where families will be able to sign up for two-hour play sessions. The museum hopes Playspace will be ready to go by March.
The $1.05 million purchase price of the original museum will boost fundraising for the new building. So will a donation from Commonweal Development, which served as listing agent on the sale and donated its entire commission back to the museum. “CMEC is not only grateful for Commonweal’s high level of service, but to then contribute back to the project, was humbling and maximizes the amount towards fundraising for the new children’s museum,” said Michael McHorney, the museum’s executive director.
Basement Bar + Arcade Planned
Markquart said the museum building – originally Woolworth’s store – is a perfect site for the restaurant and other developments. He noted that it’s across the street from a parking lot and near several entertainment venues, including the Pablo Center.
Markquart said that he’s confident that by the time Tokyo relocates in about a year, life will have returned to something closer to normal thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite the pandemic, he said, sales are up year-over-year at Tokyo, in part because the coronavirus-driven lockdown last year prompted the restaurant to offer take-out dining for the first time. The new location, with its larger space and expanded offerings, will only allow the business to continue to grow, he predicted.
And Tokyo won’t be the only business in the three-level building. On the lower level – currently home to the museum’s WaterWorks exhibit – Markquart and Warffuel plan to open a separate bar and arcade, featuring games from the 1980s and ’90s, plus pool and darts. In addition, office space in the lower level will be leased out, as will the upper floor of the building.
River Valley Architects of Eau Claire is already at work on plans to remodel the building, and work will likely begin by May or June, Markquart said, with the goal of moving the restaurant in December or January. In the meantime, you can still get your hibachi or ramen fix at the original Tokyo on London Road.