“Fill her up,” was surely a phase used by motorists who bought gas at the Esso service station at the corner of Post Road and Division Street across from the Kentish Armory. No one seems to know how long the station has been closed – decades, for certain – but if all goes according to plan, the establishment will reopen next spring as Huck’s Filling Station.
When the weather permits, the two bays of the garage will be open and customers will be welcome of “fill up” inside or outside. Only now, explains Jared Melei, in place of gasoline, customers will be treated to “new American” cuisine.
Melei said the focus of the service station transformed into a restaurant would be fresh food. There will be a raw bar, steaks, possibly lamb chops, pasta and what Rhode Island farms have to offer. Huck’s will be offering their own smoked meats.
Huck’s will be an extension of the East Greenwich Main Street scene into Warwick. That has some city planners excited as they see an opportunity for increased traffic for other businesses on the Warwick side of Division Street.
It’s the vitality of the East Greenwich small business scene and pedestrian traffic that attracted Melei and his partners, Jeff Quinlan, Justin Erickson and Ed Brady to a service station gone vacant all these years. Melei can’t quite pinpoint it, but he says there’s a feel to East Greenwich, observing people stop and talk with one another and that even early in the week when most business slows, people are out and about.
“They want to go out and see each other,” he said.
Melei said Huck’s isn’t looking to compete with village restaurants, but rather complement them. The restaurant will seat between 60 and 70.
Melei is no stranger to the restaurant business. A graduate of Cranston West, he returned to Rhode Island in 2015 after spending 10 years in Los Angeles. He worked with getting the Thirsty Beaver up and running and then Milk Money in Providence. Thirsty Beaver has restaurants in Cranston and Smithfield with another planned to open in Foxboro. The partners are also opened Pink Pigs in Jamestown.
Melei is hesitant to talk about the galaxy of establishments opened and operated by members of the group. In this case the focus is on Huck’s.
“We like for them to shine on their own,” he said.
Melei likens the partnership to a movie production crew with Quinlan with a background in law as the producer and Brady the marketer and promoter. He takes care of the day-to-day operations. He said Andrea Leonardo, executive chef, would play a key role in opening Huck’s. He said she would “build the kitchen” and manage the training.
Huck’s is named for Quinlan’s son, Huckleberry.
Sale of the 9,225-square-foot property took place this summer. Following a hearing on June 12, the Zoning Board of Review granted a special use permit for outdoor seating. It further found that the building and off-street parking are currently existing on the property and that the restaurant “would be in keeping with the character” of the surrounding area. No objections to the development were voiced to the board.
Melei said there would be an addition to the original service station.
“We’re seeing this as a home run,” he said of Huck’s.
According to the zoning petition, Huck’s would also have an outdoor game area for bocce ball, corn hole and spike ball.