It may seem strange that a space that can hold more people than the original could also be so much more intimate. But that’s what’s happening at version 2.0 of TMACS.
As the downtown Walla Walla restaurant’s new location at The Showroom on Colville takes shape, the space is maximized both to increase capacity and simultaneously give the increased crowd room to have a more private, personal experience.
Take the curved concrete bar poured just a couple of weeks ago. Not only is it one of the longest in town, it’s also the widest. This was an intentional decision to provide room for guests to enjoy a different dining experience, with room for shared dishes or multicourse meals, along with room to hold a discussion privately at the same time.
At every turn, there is a thoughtfulness to the experience that meets the vision of founding owner Tom Maccarone.
“We want it to be a more diverse business, be more approachable,” Maccarone said over the cacophony of power tools last week.
Not a detail in the space or how it fits with the operation has been overlooked.
That goes down to the cracks from floor to door framing of the former Teague Motor Company property. Gold leafing has been added to some of the old pieces of wood as a symbol of the strength and history of the former Teague Motor Company property at Colville and Rose streets.
With a little more than one month to go before opening, the touches Maccarone has dreamed up with new co-owner Logan Thies for nearly two years are coming to life.
To transform the space from automobiles to gastronomy and mixology has required laser focus on the materials. The pieces of wood that create the dining room ceiling have been individually sanded and trimmed, the concrete cleaned and polished.
The construction has capitalized on and accentuated the art deco feel of the former showroom, greeting guests as they walk in with the curved bar, mimicking the shape immediately above it that serves as an upstairs lounge with separate dining room.
“It’s very (M.C.) Escher-like,” Thies described. “There’s no focal point.”
That’s contrasted to the immediate left by the linear design of the main dining room, which will feature everything from individual tables to banquet seating at the direct corner of Rose and Colville.
A large portion of the space is dedicated to the restaurant. But property owner David Thompson is also bringing on tenants for retail spots to serve as a marketplace in the building. While several tenants have been identified, he said his plans to announce them are in the works.
The restaurant’s opening is slated for July 10. The original TMACS just next door will close June 30 in preparation for the change.
The transition takes the operation that started in 2005 from the current tighter space and allows owners to build on it.
With it is an opportunity, Maccarone said, to fill gaps in the market, open up the business to a broader guest base, introduce some new features and do it all while honoring the structure that’s been part of the downtown landscape for generations.
“I didn’t want to just take TMACS and move it and add new wallpaper,” Maccarone said.
Between the dining room, bar, upstairs cocktail lounge and a private dining room for 16 — a smaller number than the current private dining space accommodates — there’s room for guests who want a casual experience as well as a formal one.
The upstairs lounge will be furnished with leather sofas and chairs in a space meant for pre-funking before dinner, post-celebrations or cocktails for any reason.
For internal operations, flow is a big part of the design, too.
“After 14 years of being there, we had to really think about everything,” Maccarone said. “We want staff to come in and out without yelling ‘corner!’ where the customer can hear everything.”
One of the most exciting elements for Thies is the creation of a tincture room — essentially a lab for making in-house bitters. Visible from the bar, the space will include marble countertop and shelves for drying herbs.
“It’s bringing the attention and the focus to the beverage experience, which is just as important as the food experience,” Thies said.
This is in keeping with a main intention of the new venture, he said: a balancing of revenue sources that makes the bar, lounge, expanded wine offerings and catering services complementing special occasion fine dining.
Maccarone and Thies also are flirting with the idea of personal lockers for guests to use as wine storage. Those who dine can pull out a bottle they may keep at the restaurant.
Yet another feature will be a retail side of the business for sauces, meat and cheese platters, grab-and-go selections, pasta and more.
Maccarone said in the current space he will likely continue to use the established kitchen as a spot for catering, as well as the creation of pastas and breads. There’s even a chance of sharing the kitchen space as a co-op. What won’t be happening is another restaurant moving in. Property owner Thompson wants to keep the mix of tenants broad and diverse, he said.
Maccarone said the menu will likely be refreshed. A late-night bar menu will be offered, and the restaurant will stay open even later to serve folks who, for example, fly in on the nighttime flight to Walla Walla.
“I want to not entirely reinvent what we’re doing, but build on it,” he said. “It’s a game-changer for us, and a game-changer for downtown, I think.”