Every remodeler, at some point, runs into a project and a client they really enjoy. For Michael Kaiser, GMB, CGR, of Kaiser Building Co., Cranberry Township, N.J., the client is a well-connected and successful businessman, Jerry Reilly, and the project was to build a retail location to sell ice cream pastries and coffee.
Reilly, says Kaiser, is one of those rare guys with a unique vision whose track record encourages others to follow in directions they otherwise might question. Before commissioning Kaiser and his team to build his third retail establishment, each focused around the theme of dairy, coffee and pastries, Reilly had built a mini farm, complete with silo in the heart of Trenton, N.J. This became Halo Farm and is where Reilly began bottling locally raised milk as well as drinks and ice cream. The silo element of the building is, in fact, a storage tank for milk.
The second project was to build, a high-end, soft-serve ice cream parlor in the style of an English pub. Naturally it was called Halo Pub. The English pub is the real deal, but instead of serving heavy English ales and beer on tap, the fare is “ice cream on draught.” Patrons of Halo Pub sidle up to a new bar that was aged to look as if it had been there for 150 years. The authentic look, in part, was accomplished by painstakingly covering it in layer after layer of varnish and paint. A fair measure of ingenuity was involved as well. The front of the bar was constructed in large part of a several old, five-panel doors that had be salvaged, stripped and mounted on their sides before being trimmed out with detailed trim work. The doors, mounted on their sides, look so much like paneling that a double-take is required to verify that what you are seeing is a door.
Kaiser had worked with Reilly on each of these projects and had found Reilly’s drive for authenticity in each of the themes that he picked a real positive.
“Reilly is an interesting businessman,” says Kaiser. “He is into small volume but high quality. It is amazing that for someone doing small volume and high quality, the price is really low. That is one of the remarkable things. You could go in and get a cup of coffee for a buck. In Princeton, Starbucks is $3. He brags about his stuff too. He’ll say, ‘I use real beans. I know what Starbucks does to theirs. Mine is better.’ ”
Not too long after Halo Pub had established itself as a fixture in the heart of Princeton, did the space next door become available. It had been a Cingular Wireless store and Reilly quickly secured a lease with plans to build Halo Fete, an authentic French café for ice cream pastries.
Design and Project Challenges
Like virtually all the retail and light commercial spaces that remodelers encounter, the 770-sq.- ft. space for Halo Fete had been gutted. All traces of the Cingular phone store had been stripped out. For all intents and purposes, very little demo was required by Kaiser. The place was an empty shell, with a high ceiling for running wires, lighting and other mechanicals.
The lead designer on the project was not Kaiser, who has an architecture degree from Penn State. Instead it was Jerry Reilly’s daughter, Kathleen Arnold, who had done the initial sketches and floor plan. There were egg-and-dart themed drawings for the cabinets that would house the freezers disguised as pastry cases. The countertops, back bars and sideboards were specified with polished Italian Carrera marble. And, importantly, a truckload of tiny, white Carrera tiles were shipped in as the primary flooring material. These were to be arrayed in a fanlike pattern that is very typical in Europe, but seldom seen in the United States.
Jerry Reilly chipped in with ideas of his own. For one, he had sourced a number of rough-hewn beams from a demolished barn in Lancaster, Pa. He wanted these very heavy timbers to be used in a dropped ceiling, above which lights and mechanicals would run. Kaiser agrees that adding the beams was absolutely the right touch to evoke an authentic café theme, but that did not make the job of hanging those beams any easier.