New eatery to open on mall

Posted: January 28, 2013

The Winchester Star

W. John Johnson, owner of Winchester-based Encore Design Build Company, looks over blueprints in what will be the bar area of a new Mexican restaurant coming to the Loudoun Street Mall. El Centro is slated to open in the spring at 1 N. Loudoun St. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Two city residents are taking a step to be at the center of Winchester’s dining scene.

Terry and Holly Bohan plan to open El Centro of Winchester in a high-profile spot at the city’s core — 1 N. Loudoun St. The space formerly was the Loudoun Street Mall home of the Daily Grind coffee shop, which closed Dec. 31.

If they receive all necessary approvals, Terry Bohan said the couple hopes to open the restaurant in April.

“People in Winchester have a choice of several quality establishments that already serve Mexican food,” he said Friday. “Our goal is just to add to the choices in Winchester, as well as bring the cuisine to the walking mall.”

Bohan said daughters Jenna and Kendall also will work in the restaurant. The family members have more than 20 combined years of food and beverage experience in various locations.

Winchester-based Encore Design Build Company is in the process of renovating the space to suit El Centro’s needs. The dining area in the 3,000-square-foot space is expected to seat approximately 100.

The restaurant will feature classic Mexican food and drink. Bohan said he and his wife recently returned from a business trip to Mexico, where they met with consultants and sampled different cuisines.

Though its menu isn’t finalized, he said El Centro’s dishes will be affordable. They’ve applied for a permit to serve alcohol but plan to operate the business as a restaurant only and not stay open late.

When they moved here in 2005, Bohan said he and his wife liked the community and the pedestrian mall and decided they’d like to retire here. They also were interested in opening a restaurant and thought the mall was where they wanted to be.

They’ve been planning for the change for a couple of years (Bohan retired on Jan. 3 at the age of 50) and targeted early 2013 to open their restaurant because of the $7.1 million project to renovate the pedestrian mall. The commitment the city was making, Bohan said, made it easier for them to decide to invest in the area, and the timing was ideal.

“We knew about the impending project,” Bohan said, “and we felt that it would be a good time to go forward to do our project also.

“We truly believe people will be energized by the mall and the construction and the redesign, and we really think it will be a shot in the arm for the development of downtown Winchester. We said if we could get in during that period also and be prepared to open when the mall is completed, that probably would be the optimal time.”

The restaurant’s name is a nod to its cuisine and location.

Bohan said that during a conversation about the site, Jim Deskins, the city’s economic redevelopment director, said it was “smack dab in the center of Winchester. ... We translated center of town to El Centro.”

The couple has worked only with local businesses so far, he said, and they hope to have a strong local clientele that will be supplemented by weekend tourists.

“We’re just looking to carve out our niche, not duplicate anyone else,” Bohan said. “I think the more variety we have available, more people will be attracted to the walking mall.”

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com