published Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Dining at Row recast

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    Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press -- Oct 28, 2010 Virginia Cofer stands outside the new space being prepared for her second Petunia's Silver Jalapeno restaurant in The Market area of Warehouse Row.

The old food court at Warehouse Row will soon open with a new look and new name.

The Market, the new name of the court, will feature new art, new furnishings, new lighting. “We’re going for a totally new feel,” said Warehouse Row general manager Jennifer Mingola.

Familiar tenants such as Taiwan Express and Blue Coast Burrito are closed. In their place will come Petunia’s Silver Jalapeno, for starters.

Chef and restaurateur Virginia Cofer and partner Laura Powell will open a second location of Petunia’s in the newly developed space. The menu will feature all of Petunia’s favorites, plus a few items — mostly salads and desserts, Cofer said — from Virginia’s Southside Cafe, which Cofer and Powell owned before the closing earlier this year of Southside Galleries in which the cafe was located.

When George Krauth, Warehouse Row business development manager, approached Cofer about the possibility of opening a second Petunia’s at Warehouse Row, Cofer said she didn’t have to think twice.

“I’ve loved this building for a long time,” she said. “It’s got such a great feel to it. When George called and said it would be a perfect fit, I agreed, thinking that with TVA across the street and all the other businesses, well — everyone has to eat. And I want to be a part of a plan that makes something thrive.”

Eatery Seeks Look

Designer Christi Homar, co-owner of the Dwelling consignment shop, has been working with Cofer to create a look for Petunia’s new storefront that will catch the eye of those entering The Market, as well as those looking down from upper floors.

Warehouse Row has evolved from a discount market to one with upscale shops. And The Market renovation is a natural extension of those renovations, Krauth said.

“The vision for the space is a 19th-century style mercantile with a mix of food and dry goods,” he said. “Our goal is [to make it] a place where one can shop made-to-order meals, prepared foods, tabletop accessories and floral goods. The Market will be a place for all ages to congregate and meet family, friends and co-workers.”

Completion of the renovated area is expected by the end of the month.

Cofer’s passion for food is what Mingola thinks will write a new chapter for food service at the retail complex. Public House, which opened last year on the first floor, recently expanded with a new bar, The Social, that opens into Warehouse Row as well as onto Market Street.

The Market is below ground at Warehouse Row, but new flooring, artwork and lighting have brightened the area. Sleek new tables occupy the dining area. Plans, Mingola said, call for other boutique vendors selling items such as antiques and artisan breads and cheeses, to move in, as well as restaurants that offer something a step above traditional mall food court fare.

Growth Hopes

Krauth said he is talking to local and regional artisans about locating their businesses in The Market. “As The Market evolves, we’ll be adding new businesses,” he said.

“Virginia is phenomenal,” Mingola said. “She has a great following across the city and will bring her own customer base, plus all the folks in this building. And she’ll be introducing new people to her food.”

Petunia’s Silver Jalapeno will open by mid-month. It will be open for lunch Monday through Friday, with hopes to add hours as the mall fills with new tenants. “I’d like to stay open the same hours as the stores,” Cofer said.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6285.

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