JEFFERSON — When he was deciding just what kind of restaurant he wanted to fit into the vacated space that once housed the Plantation Inn Evan Phipps took to the streets.

Phipps, 30, bought the former site of the long-time Jefferson restaurant, with the idea of perhaps making it a convenience store.

“That’s my background,” he said. “For the last nine years I’ve been doing that in Salem but this space was built to be a restaurant.”

And that’s what Phipps built. The Mint Leaf Bar & Grill at 237 N. Second St. in Jefferson is his answer to the suggestions the community gave him during his information-finding mission.

He spoke with people around town asking them what kind of restaurant would best suit them, what items would they like to see on the menu and what their general reaction to a new restaurant might be.

It was pretty close to unanimous that a family-friendly eatery would work.

“They wanted a place to take their family,” Phipps said. “But they wanted a change from what was here.”

That meant a new look, a new menu and the new name.

“I decided on Mint Leaf because it works well with the town,” he said. “It’s known for the Mint Festival seemed appropriate.”

Phipps set about remodeling the building that had been around since the 1960s. In July the work began.

According to Halley Baxter, who works at the restaurant the facelift was total. She said new paint inside and out was just the start.

“It’s all new,” she said. “Even the countertops.”

The fresh look on the resurfaced tables, the booths and floors give it a diner feel that Phipps said is starting to catch on with customers.

“We’ve been open just over a month and people are starting to find us,” he said. “I think they feel good about what we’ve done.”

The Mint Leaf is really two restaurants in one. About 60 percent of the space is dedicated to family-style dining but the bar, which is set back from the main eating area, offers a more adult-oriented feel.

Phipps said the restaurant seats 59 and the bar seats another 40.

The menu is family-style foods emphasizing burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads. Evans says a specialty is the home-made potato chips.

“We try to do everything in house from scratch,” Phipps said. “It’s important to put out the best quality food we can.”

An Army veteran, Phipps said he saw the opportunity to purchase the building and took it. He admitted the restaurant business is a little different than what he is used to.

“It’s very exciting and so far a lot of fun,” he said.

The Mint Leaf is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner. The bar is open until Midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Phipps said the restaurant employs nine people.

There are some changes planned in the near future. Before Christmas Phipps hopes to add breakfast and  The Mint Leaf is now serving a Sunday brunch.

There are lunch specials and the bar features a Happy Hour plus specials during sporting events which are on the big screen television.

“Our idea was to give this place a new start,” Phipps said. “Build a positive image that is inviting to families.”

Steve Lathrop is the business reporter for the Albany Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at 541-812-6076 or by email at steve.lathrop@lee.net.

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