The owners of several of Sperryville’s most successful businesses, including Thornton River Grille and the Sperryville Corner Store, have reached an agreement with proprietor Darla Morres to purchase her Tula’s off Main cafe and coffee shop in Washington, with plans to eventually turn it into a full-service restaurant.
Andy and Ken Thompson of Thornton River Group made the deal public Tuesday afternoon, after meeting with Morres and employees of the Gay Street cafe, which Morres opened just 15 months ago. Morres will stay on, the Thompsons said, to manage Tula’s morning and daytime coffee business and baked goods, while TRG executive chef Tom Nash will be in charge of food operations.
Tula’s name probably won’t change, but the restaurant will close for about a month starting Dec. 16 for “initial renovations” — mostly, Nash said Tuesday, to build a kitchen.
“I am truly excited to be part of the Thompsons’ new restaurant,” Morres said, adding that the “opportunity allows me more time to chase my passion for baking.”
When the restaurant reopens in late January, Ken Thompson said, current Tula’s employees are being encouraged to re-apply for jobs with Nash.
“I have to say, we are really influenced in this decision by what’s been going on in the town,” said Ken Thompson. “I wouldn’t have said the same thing 12 months ago, but there’s definitely a buzz along Main Street,” he added.
Thompson mentioned Inn at Little Washington proprietor Patrick O’Connell’s floor-to-copper-roof renovation of Clopton House into new luxury lodging at what is already Rappahannock County’s No. 1 tourist attraction, as well as the opening this fall of the Wine Loves Chocolate tasting room and Little Washington Wellness & Spa and the impending opening of Jim Abdo’s six-room White Moose Inn (and Abdo’s purchase of three other commercial properties along Main Street).
He didn’t mention his own renovation over the last five years of the Kramer Building, fronted at sidewalk level by Tula’s and Rappahannock Real Estate Resources — or Rapp Office, the second-floor telecommuting and business-services operation he built that’s been been fully leased for most of the past year.
Nash said the new Tula’s will likely begin weekend dinner service — Friday through Sunday nights — after reopening, and work toward a schedule similar to the Thornton River Grille’s Tuesday-Sunday operation. It will “make more use” of the outdoor patio, Ken Thompson said, and will likely seek a mixed-drink license (in addition to its existing beer and wine license).
Possibly, Nash said, Morres’ baked goods will make their way to TRG’s Sperryville restaurant and store. “We just want to allow her to blossom as much as possible,” he said.
After Nash and Andy Thompson posed for a photo with Morres, the elder Thompson was shaking his head and smiling, saying he wished the two men had changed out of their Thornton River Grille T-shirts into Tula’s T-shirts for the picture. “I just want to push back on any notion that we’re going to change things in any drastic way,” he said.
“Darla has gotten a terrific community response here,” he said. “And we’re just delighted that she’s enthused about staying, and focusing on what she wants to focus on.”