Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // JJ Kaplan
The word of the fire spread almost as quickly through the town as the actual fire did at the old location of Noah Grant’s Grill House and Oyster Bar in downtown Zionsville. The fire destroyed the building and heavily damaged adjoining spaces on the morning of September 18, 2017. Shari Jenkins, Noah Grant’s proprietor, was understandably devastated by the loss of her previous location. While plans were already well underway for the eventual move to the Carter Building, the unexpected loss of property and the damage to all who were concerned was a devastating blow for Jenkins and her staff to process.
While still mourning the sense of loss, Jenkins understood that time was of the essence and had to push through and move up the reopening at the new location six to eight weeks ahead of the original timeline. She was on a mission to get Noah Grant’s back up and running, serving her loyal customers who were supportive all along the journey.
Jenkins and her staff eagerly opened the doors at the new location on November 14, 2017, just in time for the holiday season rush. It was worth the hustle. Regulars and curious patrons made their way to the restaurant to see the new décor and try out the expanded menu, plus they’re able to seat twice as many customers in the new space.
“The reopening of Noah Grant’s was definitely bittersweet,” Jenkins said. “It took me longer than I thought it would to mourn the old building. Obviously, I knew that we were coming to this location, but until the fire, I wasn’t losing the old spot. I was going to move over here on my terms and have a big party at the old building and toast that wonderful building. Additionally, everything that I had planned on doing over here had to be reconsidered because there wasn’t money for all of it due to the fire.”
Jenkins said they had a handful of issues to work through upon reopening but were able to work through those issues over the course of the first six weeks.
“A bigger space means bigger problems,” Jenkins said. “To some extent, it’s been a fun challenge, and now we are at a point where everyone here is saying that this location now feels like home. The support from the community since the day of the fire to present day has been amazing. I received more flowers after the fire than people typically do at a funeral. It was so surprising and touching.”
Jenkins said, in general, people are happy with the new location while there are some who do miss the old space.
“I’d say that over 90 percent of our customers are thrilled with the new space,” she said. “Those who miss the old space have shared that they are excited for what the new space can do for us. It can do things that the other location just couldn’t do. For instance, we can hold twice the amount of people, so getting in here on a Friday night isn’t as difficult as it used to be. We have a larger variety on our menu because our kitchen is three times the size of our old kitchen. When people used to ask why we didn’t bring on a fill-in-the-blank, I physically couldn’t. I couldn’t have grouper on our menu, and for years, that’s what people wanted. There was literally no room for a refrigerator. For us, providing new menu items that we can handle has been great. It just feels fresh while it still carries the spirit of the original Noah Grant’s. This is the new chapter of its story.”
Jenkins mentioned that this year marks the 10th anniversary of Noah Grant’s, and that was in part why she had planned to move to the Carter Building long before the tragic fire.
“I knew that it was time to reinvent, and reinvent we have,” she said. “We have doubled our oyster bar and launched our signature hot sauce, ‘Nautical Heat.’ I couldn’t imagine that we would sell more oysters than we already were, but we are. We’re selling thousands of oysters a week. As an oyster lover, that is awesome.”
Jenkins said the number one requested item is the Florida Grouper.
“Hands down the number thing on our menu is the grouper,” she enthused. “It was a special that we had a lot at Noah Grant’s, but we’ve now got it on the menu as a sandwich and an entrée. They are both very different, but that has been an exciting addition. We’ve been able to do two more different cuts of meat in different applications, which are nice for being a grill house to have more than three filets. We have six different cuts of meat. Those have been the biggest hits since reopening.”
Jenkins concluded, “We anticipated long before the move that we would need more staff in the kitchen, so luckily, we had hired three [staff] on a part-time basis at the old location to begin getting used to our food. Since we’ve opened, we’ve added three new servers, and they are great additions. You would have thought they were part of the team from the previous location.”