Christian Hershman wipes his brow and takes a seat near the bar at State Street Eatery. The restaurant is closed, and the co-owner and chef has just finished moving an industrial oven in preparation for the bar’s upcoming expansion into the space next door — but Hershman prefers to call it an “extension.”
“We’re not so much expanding as we are extending the services we already offer,” he says. “We’ve been fortunate to be successful here, and that’s resulted in long wait times for our customers. Our hope is that this will give them a nice place to wait, if that’s the case.”
Hershman and partners Kirk and Chris Voelker opened the restaurant last year. State Street’s urban-chic vibe is created in part by its stripped-down décor, including a concrete bar top and exposed rafters; its craft cocktails, which are mixed with house-made ingredients; and its hip staff, who serves up dishes and cocktails with a sense of style. This combination of elements has secured the eatery’s spot in downtown Sarasota.
The Voelkers own the downtown space, which The Old Heidelberg Pastry Shop previously occupied. When the Heidelberg closed, Chris Voelker began working with Hershman, an established chef and caterer, to develop a restaurant and bar with a vintage atmosphere.
“It’s been great,” says Chris Voelker. “We’ve evolved, and we have a big mix of customers. There’s a great ambience, and Christian has a real vision for creating dishes. Our success has been the result of a combination of a lot of things.”
Now, a year later, the establishment is ready to grow. Hershman is cautious when speaking about the extension, because he largely credits the eatery’s success to its intimate size and throwback sensibility.
“We’re not a 150-seat restaurant,” he says. “We’re a small, intimate, urban space, and that’s rare, especially downtown. I think that has a lot to do with our success, and we’re cognitive of that with this extension.”
The extra space will help State Street retain many of the customers who want to stop in for a drink, but are unable to find a seat. Even so, Hershman says he’s found people are willing to wait.
“I’m still surprised when people are willing to wait 45 minutes or an hour,” he says. “The expansion is important, because it’s a quick way to say thank you and provide them with a more defined, pleasurable place to wait.”
Specific details of the expansion are forthcoming, pending approval from the city, but the basic idea is to offer customers a comfortable place to wait or just enjoy a cocktail. Preliminary design plans include adding additional tables and bar seating, as well as a lounge area with couches, where customers can enjoy light-menu items. State Street will also offer throwback services, such as shoe shining during the day.
The owners have applied for a major conditional use permit through the city and will host a community workshop April 11, before presenting the plans to city commissioners in July. Hershman says they hope to have the new space open by early August.