Restaurateur Developing Half of Former Watson’s Hardware Store

Plans prepared for the Cape Charles Historic Review Board show the building in its current form and intentions for its renovation. Image courtesy of Todd Bricken.

By Jim Ritch – 

A $2.5 million face-lift will breathe new life into half of the two former Watson’s Hardware buildings. 

Todd Bricken, a career restaurateur in Westminster, Md., plans to develop first-floor commercial space and upstairs apartments in what once held Watson’s Christmas train layout, a small fraction of the store’s hardware displays, plus offices. 

Originally built as the Parson’s Building, the name of which still appears on the facade, the building was converted in 1910 to the Radium Theatre. 

Bricken purchased the building for $600,000 and plans to invest about $1.6 million in the build-out. 

He estimates that another $300,000 will be needed for finishes, depending on the needs of the tenant. 

Former tenants of the building, including the Ellen Moore Gallery, were asked to leave by March 1 so that renovations could begin. 

No surprise, the graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and the hospitality program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore hopes to see someone open a restaurant in the building. 

“I really feel there’s a need for more restaurants in Cape Charles,” he said. 

The plan for the first floor includes a 3,500 square-footspace; a small, rear, indoor garage or storage space; and a foyer and hallway for access to the second floor. 

On the second floor, Bricken plans three one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments. 

He also wants to improve the facade of the building, giving it a more historic look that blends better with other Mason Avenue buildings. 

The three large windows facing the sidewalk will be made to better resemble each other and square pillars similar to those on neighboring buildings will replace rotting round pillars. 

He anticipates mosaic tile thresholds for the main entrance and a fresh and consistent paint color to the facade. 

Much of the historic details inside the building have been covered under years of renovations. 

One possible gem lies buried under a dropped ceiling in the rear. 

The carved wooden piece, possibly as long as 30 feet, is still in its original position over what was once the theater’s screen, Bricken said. 

A veteran of past renovations to historic buildings, Bricken concedes that all these plans will have to be approved by the Historic District Review Board. 

His initial submissions to the board have been met favorably, he said. 

In Westminster, Bricken built a fine dining restaurant in what originally had been a one-room schoolhouse. 

He operated the restaurant for 19 years, selling the operation and property in 2019. 

“We had no idea that a global pandemic was just over the horizon,” he said. 

He and his wife searched the East Coast before falling in love with Cape Charles and purchasing a home in Bay Creek. 

The couple expects to retire in Cape Charles, perhaps when their 12-year-old son finishes high school, he said.

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