ASHLAND — Melissa Lawrence grabbed a pan out of the oven. On it were two skewers of meatballs, pineapple and roasted red peppers. She set the skewers on a plate with greens under them, and rang a bell for a server to take them to a customer.
Lawrence, owner of City Grille in Mansfield for the last 12 years, just opened The Well, a new business on Ashland’s Main Street. She was a 2007 Ashland University grad who worked at O’Bryan’s Pub during her college days and wanted to bring something new to Ashland.
“I met a lot of good people when I lived here,” Lawrence said. “This just felt like a good next step.”
The Well is a bar and lounge with a small kitchen serving appetizers. It stands at the location of the former A-Town Tap.
Lawrence and her husband purchased the building for $265,000 in early March from Scott Donley, A-Town Tap’s former owner, according to previous Ashland Source reporting.
But Lawrence closed the space in early April to make renovations for the new business. According to the business’s Facebook page, it remained open as a private venue during renovations.
The space differs from A-Town Tap. Lawrence removed some of the restaurant seating, opting for lounge seating. She added a pool table and dart boards and revamped the patio. Photos of fancy drinks and flat screen TVs adorn the walls. But, she kept the bar intact.
“When my husband and I go out on a Saturday night after putting the kids to bed, and we don’t want to go to a fancy dinner, we want something more casual,” Lawrence said. “So, that’s what I tried to create here.”
The Well had its opening run on Friday. Lawrence said she tried to keep it on the “down low” to make sure she could keep up in the kitchen. She manned it on her own at the opening.
The appetizer menu included Polynesian meatballs, crab dip, Bavarian pretzels and pulled pork nachos. Chocolate cake, triple berry tart and vanilla cheesecake dessert were also available.
Even with the quiet opening, a crowd of around 15 to 20 people arrived at The Well on Friday afternoon.
Skyla Harp, a 23-year-old who grew up in West Salem, said she came on opening night because her friend got a job at The Well and was working. She said she liked the ambience of the bar and lounge.
“It’s something new,” Harp said. “It looks great in here, it’s really cozy.”
Mike and Chris Rossi, owners of Rossi Machinery Services, also showed on The Well’s opening night. Mike said they came because as small business owners, they know what it’s like to start a business and wanted to show their support.
Chris added that after 12 years of living in Ashland and watching many of the downtown businesses start, she feels like she’s been on the ground floor of seeing the city expand.
“The city is growing and this is a great addition,” Chris said.
The Well will be open Fridays and Saturdays. Lawrence said she’s planning on having live music every other Saturday. She also hopes to expand hours to include Thursdays.
“I’m hoping people come and people like it,” Lawrence said.