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Ramsey’s Wine Bistro in downtown Marion has new name, expanded space

By Alison Gowans, The Gazette | UPDATED: December 17, 2015 |

A downtown Marion wine bar has a new name, a newly renovated space and is working on a new menu.

Ramsey’s Metro Market became Ramsey’s Wine Bistro earlier this year, when owners Conrad and Lu Ann Ramsey unveiled their revamped restaurant, which included an expansion into the space next door.

The old name was confusing, Conrad Ramsey said – people sometimes thought they were a grocery store instead of a wine shop and bar – a place where customers can pick up a bottle to take home or enjoy a glass of wine, a sandwich and some conversation.

“I coin it as an adult coffee house without the coffee,” Ramsey said.

After 4 1/2 years in business, they’d simply outgrown their original space.

“We really have grown enough of a customer base we were peaking out our ability to grow anymore,” he said.

When Community Baptist Church moved out of storefront next door in May, the Ramseys decided to act. They purchased the building, which they had been leasing, so they could take down the wall between the two establishments.

They started the remodeling project August 1 and were able to stay open for business almost the entire time, closing for just four days this fall. Conrad Ramsey did all the building with the help of friends and loyal customers.

The revamped Ramsey’s is double the space of the original – their occupancy jumped from 48 to 99 with the expansion. The renovated bistro has a much longer bar, more seating and a stage for live music. Previously, there was room for one or two musicians to play, sitting in the front of the store. The stage, left behind by the church, has room for a full band, and the restaurant has added live music on Thursday nights in addition to Fridays and Saturdays.

Inside, shelves of wine line the walls. A curtain can be pulled to divide the two halves of the store, which allows the restaurant to remain open while hosting private events – previously they would have to close to host a party.

In May they acquired a liquor license and are considering an expanded cocktail list next year.

Some changes are still in the works. Ramsey is working to install a walk in cooler behind the bar. When finished, it will house kegs connected to ten beer taps – the store currently has a single tap, though they boast over 100 beer varieties available in cans and bottles.

In the meantime, the cooking area has been improved. Before, food was prepared on small panini grills and a toaster oven. Now, a full kitchen offers the chance to expand the menu, which currently focuses on paninis, grilled cheeses and sub sandwiches.

The Ramsey’s son Josh works at the restaurant full time and is crafting the menu changes with front-of-house manager Danielle Bunting. They hope to roll out new items after Jan. 1, though a couple of additional paninis are already on the menu. They plan on adding an assortment of burgers, a few more appetizers and a wrap option for sandwiches. Lunch specials and a new dinner menu are also in the works. The dinner menu will be small, perhaps five items that will rotate seasonally.

“We have people who ask for something fancier,” Josh Ramsey said.

A self-taught chef, he grew up cooking for his siblings.

“I always liked cooking,” he said. “I’m the oldest of three, and we kind of took care of each other and cooked lunch for each other.”

That family mentality carries over into the wine bistro, he added.

“I hate to call it ‘Cheers,’ but it has that feel,” he said. “We’ve been really fortunate over the last four years that we have a great customer base.”

Conrad Ramsey said for he and Lu Ann, the store’s staff and regulars are like family.

He has worked for Rockwell Collins for 29 years and plans to retire this month. Lu Ann works at Farmers State Bank. Despite both having full time jobs in addition to the bistro, they’ve loved running the small business, he said.

“It’s given us the opportunity to meet the community and establish great friendships,” he said. “The benefit we get out of it is the people.”

Eat Up!

Where: 1120 Seventh Ave., Marion

When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Details: (319) 447-1700; ramseysmetromarket.com

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