When a restaurant changes locations, there's always the question: Will the customers follow?
For Courtyard Deli, a fixture in downtown Lexington dining, that question was a hearty yes when they reopened June 1 after a five month absence.
"They came out in droves," said owner Krissy Fraser with a tired but happy smile on Friday, after a week back in business at 351 Church Street.
Courtyard Deli had been in the same location on Cheapside for 24 years when the restaurant lost its lease at the end of last year, Fraser said. She worried that they wouldn't be able to start over again.
But if anyone knows how to make chicken salad out of a disaster, it's a deli owner.
Fraser and her husband, David, were offered a spot in the back of Heritage Antiques, now on Church Street and Broadway in a historic 1876 church.
"It was a little bittersweet there for a while," Krissy Fraser said. "But I'm moving on. This is only a block from the old location. Our door's on the side of the church building."
Heritage Antiques' owner, Dean Gogel, bought the business two years ago and moved it into a former church. Originally Centenary Methodist, the church was built by architect Cincinnatus Shryock. Until a few years ago, it was a multidenominational church.
Now, the front half of the building is filled with antiques and vintage finds bathed in the amber light of 30-foot tall stained glass windows, while the back hums with restaurant customers. The two spaces connect through a door just off the Courtyard Deli kitchen.
Fraser has changed up the menu a bit to simplify orders, but longtime customers can still ask for a sandwich by name.
"People come in and read the specials board, and ask me what they should eat. Happens all the time," Fraser said. "If you had a favorite, you can have that again."
She still has homemade soups and pies, too, and in a few weeks she plans to expand a bit, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday, afternoon tea, and eventually premade take-and-bake dinner entrees like casseroles, lasagne and frozen soups.
Gogel said he thinks there will be great synergy between the two businesses: After lunch, customers can wander through the shop, or buy the paintings right off the walls.
"Nobody has a restaurant as good as Krissy's," Gogel said. "I've known her six or so years, and probably ate down there three times a week at least."
That seems to have been the norm for a lot of customers, especially the courthouse crowd. Fraser pointed to larger tables in the middle of the restaurant and said she had to get those to accommodate her regulars.
"This is the lawyers' table," said Lewis Paisley, a retired Fayette District Court judge who began eating at Courtyard Deli when the old Fayette County Courthouse was still open just across Cheapside.
Fellow attorney Dick Plymale corrected Paisley: "The liars' table."
Plymale said he favors the soups (especially Fraser's prize-winning mushroom and crab bisque) and the salads. Paisley likes the sandwiches.
"Most of us come several days a week," he said. "We were worried about how they would do (in the new location) but everybody seems to have come back."
Bill Griffin of Griffin Insurance used to be next door to the old location. In the last five months, he's "packed a lot of lunches" while waiting for Courtyard Deli to re-open, he said.
"I just cried every day," chimed in Mills Brockman, sitting at another table behind. He drove over from Richmond about three days a week to eat the turkey on focaccia bread and homemade tomato soup, which was what he finally had on Friday, too.
"I really did miss it," Brockman said.