Ricky Mollohan wants people in Northeast Richland to think of his restaurant, Solstice Kitchen, as the neighborhood place. Not as a pricey, special-occasions only eatery.
And he's bringing in dogs and kids to prove it.
"I want Solstice to survive," he said. "It's harder than ever to get people to eat out."
To entice people to give the nearly 3-year-old restaurant a try, Mollohan started a Dine with your Dog night and a baby-sitting night this year. In November, he will start opening for lunch.
Mollohan said special events to an extent have worked to bring bigger crowds to the restaurant at 841-A Sparkleberry Lane.
- The dog dinner is held about once a month. Dogs are served a three-course dinner on the patio for $10.
The meals come from Pupcakes, a pet boutique that makes gourmet meals for dogs.
Each dog gets its own bowl of water, and after the meal, they can have some play time if the owner is still eating. The experience lasts about an hour and a half, Mollohan said.
"It's fun," he said.
- Baby-sitter night happens once every three weeks. Mollohan came up with the idea because his private dining room - which used to be booked five times a week - is underused these days.
Children can eat and play in the private dining room for $5 while their parents have a meal in the main restaurant.
There is a baby sitter for every four or five children, Mollohan said, and he brings in extra help if the kids are younger. They can play with toys and video games or watch movies after they eat.
Mollohan also is working on a nontraditional kids' menu that he plans to introduce soon.
"It's not chicken fingers and cheeseburgers," he said.
Mollohan also tried a car service earlier this year, but it was a flop. Patrons could get a ride to and from the restaurant for $10.
He will start opening for lunch - sandwiches, salads and other quick items - Tuesday through Friday next month.
Doug Bridges, who is on the board of directors of the Northeast Area Council of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said Solstice does have the image of being in that "middle of the line to white tablecloth" category of restaurants that has suffered most along with the economy.
Dinner prices for entrees range from $17 to $24. A burger meal is about $14.
"People rant and rave about the food there. That's been consistent," said Bridges, a real estate agent who has lived in Northeast Richland for 30 years. "But they're not the economy offering."
Goodwill opened a new store Thursday at 118 Knoll State Drive in Lexington (across from the Wal-Mart on South Lake Drive). The facility includes a retail store and a drive-through donation center.
Uptown, 1204 Main St., Columbia, will host a book signing with Fritz Hamer and John Daye from noon to 2 p.m. today. The two wrote "Glory on the Gridiron: A History of College Football in South Carolina."