Lee and Rob Milward did not mean to run a restaurant.
But in January 2014, as they were eating at the Ramsey's on High Street shortly before it closed and relocated to Nicholasville Road, Lee said she and her husband thought that "somebody should save this neighborhood gem."
Never really dreaming that that somebody would be them.
A few weeks later, Rob Milward ran into an old friend, Charles Patterson. Soon the two of them decided to open a restaurant in the vacant High Street Ramsey's location.
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By April, plans were in motion and renovations underway. It would take months to get the place open but in August, Chatham's would serve its first meals.
For new businesses, particularly restaurants, the initial few months are crucial. Will customers come? And more importantly, will they come back?
Unfortunately, Lee Milward said, Chatham's stumbled badly out of the gate. Often, items on the menu weren't really available and business began to dry up.
They were "horrified" to hear from friends "that people were eating here and experiencing bad service and being told that there was no food in the kitchen," she said.
Patterson, who is no longer with the restaurant, said he wasn't aware of those problems. "While I was there, we never had bad service or multiple items missing off the menu," he said.
At the beginning of this year Rob Milward "decided to go a different direction. ... It wasn't going to work for us," Patterson said, adding that new restaurants often struggle in the beginning and that he wishes the Milwards well and wants to see Chatham's succeed.
In January, Lee Milward took over and hired a new chef — Amy Harris, formerly of Holly Hill Inn, Jonathan at Gratz Park and Azur — and a new manager, Mark O'Shea, formerly of The Pub, along with more new staff.
The new team pulled together a revised menu. and Milward has slowly been getting the word out that Chatham's can deliver now on what it promises.
"It's a Southern comfort food restaurant' we want to welcome people back in," Lee Milward said.
Chatham's is having a relaunch party Saturday, she said, with drink specials and a sampler of free appetizers at every table. The goal is to get neighborhood people to give Chatham's another try.
But for now, the new approach seems to be working. The restaurant had a wait for tables on Easter Sunday, she said, and with the warmer weather she hopes the more open patio will be a big draw.
"It's beautiful out there," she said.
The Chatham's menu will have a similar feel to the kind of homey food Ramsey's served there, just elevated a bit, Harris said.
"We're trying to bring a different level of flavor to the food but keep it moderately priced," she said. "We're doing favorites like pot roast. A pork loin, meatloaf, broccoli and sweet potato casseroles. ... We still offer a veggie plate, but with fewer sides available. Sometimes it's better to do six or eight things that are really good, rather than 30 things that are mediocre."
Harris thinks the restaurant has turned a corner, with customers coming back to see what's changed.
This summer, Harris hopes to introduce a revised menu.
"It won't be an all-new menu, but I'm looking at adding some things," she said. "Use some local produce. That's the direction I feel we should be going."