CONWAY — OVP Management Inc. is turning the tables in North Conway by investing in five innovative restaurants designed by Boston-based architects Prellwitz Chilinski Associates.
They are aiming to make Settlers Green not just a destination for shopping, but also for dining.
Over the past decade, this has been a successful strategy for Settlers Green developer Rob Barsamian.
“Our entrepreneurial restaurant owners bring big ideas and new concepts to our local market," he said. "We, along with Prellwitz Chilinski Associates, help bring these ideas to life to create a restaurant setting that is exciting and unique. But it's the creative menu, well-executed dishes and flawless customer service that gives our restaurant partners consistent success year after year.”
Prellwitz Chilinski's work will be familiar to anyone in the New England area; the firm has designed restaurants the Seaport’s Legal Sea Bar, Portsmouth’s Tuscan Kitchen and Charlestown’s Olive’s.
Walk around trendy locales such as Assembly Row and Lynnfield Market and you’ll also find their work.
The restaurants at these Massachusetts shopping destinations are similar to the look and feel now being created throughout Settlers Green in North Conway.
Designwise, this is a departure from North Conway’s roots as a ski town. But it seems to be a change diners are enjoying.
PCA’s first restaurant design project in North Conway was in 2009, when Black Cap Grille opened at Settlers Crossing, one of OVP Management’s shopping centers.
They were approached by Barsamian and restaurateur Ben Williams, who was already well-known for his successes at other North Conway eateries, including Horsefeathers in North Conway Village.
Williams recalls: “That was the first time I worked with an architect from the beginning. I had worked on the structural components of a restaurant, but never with the architect/interior designer combination. It was a great experience.”
Black Cap Grille was the first of what would be several new eateries to open at a Settlers’ property. It was joined by White Mountain Cupcakery in 2013, a bakery famous for winning the Food Network’s "Cupcake Wars." That shop is owned by Kathy and Marc Iannuzzi, who would later open two more PCA-designed restaurants with OVP Management: Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers, in 2018, and FIRE by Wicked Fresh, set to open next month, along with their partners Angelys and Danny Rassi.
They are also adding two food kiosks at Settlers Green, Wicked Munchies and Wicked Street.
Barsamian worked hand in hand with the Wicked Fresh owners to create experiences for shoppers that go beyond the typical franchise options many malls offer.
By identifying local entrepreneurs with novel food concepts, then bringing in world-renowned restaurant design architects to create the space, OVP seems to have found a winning recipe for their tenants.
Channeling the creative vision of the restaurateur in tandem with the developer is part of the appeal of these restaurants.
Architect Eric Brown, AIA LEED AP, stated: “In terms of the process and working together, what’s unique about Rob (Barsamian) is he is really invested personally in the success of the tenants. It’s unique.
"I work for a lot of retail developers, and you never see a developer sitting in on a meeting where we are discussing the design of a restaurant," Brown said.
Barsamian, he said, "wants to see them do well financially, but he also cares about their image and brand and what they are bringing to the center.”
Brown explained their approach to restaurant design. “We meet with the operator and understand what they are trying to do, not only from an environmental point of view but from a menu point of view. What they are trying to do to bring in the customer they are looking for. They have a target market and a menu that supports it, then we have architecture that supports the menu. It all supports each other.”
FIRE by Wicked Fresh comes on the heels of 2018’s Barley & Salt Tap House and Kitchen, another partnership with Williams. The establishment offers a menu of small plate street food and big plate creations layered with international flavors.
Williams said: “Rob came to me and said he was working on something and asked if I was interested in working with him. It wasn’t a defined space, it was a free-standing building. We started with an empty piece of land, then the shell, then worked our way in.
"A big design influence," he said, "was European beer halls with iron chandeliers and long tables. We were trying for a hip interior, something completely unique to the area.”
With art installations throughout the outlet village and other surprising elements, such as a granite pingpong table just outside Barley and Salt, Settlers Green is making the experience more active to give shoppers more to do than just go in and out of stores.
The developers and architects are determined to offer a sense of place, investing in art, food services, grounds and ambiance, all designed to keep shoppers on premises.
Williams continued, “It’s the alternative to other activities. We have had far more traffic than I anticipated. What I’m most impressed with is the growth from opening. The sales are growing year over year, which shows me that people like what we have.”
For more information about all of Settlers Green's restaurants, go to settlersgreen.com. For information about leasing, call Barsamian at (617) 965-9700.