Meridian Cafe has been a staple of the St. Matthews neighborhood and has plugged steadily along for roughly two decades.
The neighborhood has grown up significantly since the breakfast and lunch restaurant first opened, said cafe owner Kristin Fults, who bought the business in 2014. But Meridian Cafe remained the main breakfast spot along its stretch of Shelbyville Road up until fairly recently.
After locally owned Highland Morning opened its second location at 111 St. Matthews Ave. and national chain First Watch opened on Breckenridge Lane, sales dropped, Fults said. “It really just fell off extremely when those two places opened.”
Meridian Cafe earned enough to pay the bills, but not enough to pay for any upgrades to the building or future expansion, she said. “Staying competitive is tough.”
So, Fults began planning and spending mornings counting the hundreds of cars driving down U.S. Highway 42 in Prospect. Then, this past weekend, she closed Meridian Cafe and announced plans to open a new breakfast and lunch spot in Prospect called Melrose Cafe, a nod to the Melrose Inn, a 140-year-old Prospect landmark and the birthplace of Derby Pie.
Fults’ goal is to open Melrose Cafe on Feb. 1, after a couple of weeks spent remodeling and refurbishing.
As Insider Louisville reported, the Meridian Cafe space will become the second location for El Taco Luchador.
Something new and bigger
The competition wasn’t the only factor, Fults said. Customers regularly complained about a lack of parking, and the kitchen was too small, she added. Also, the only equipment in the kitchen was a residential oven and panini press, which limited what Meridian Cafe could offer.
Melrose Cafe, on the other hand, is in a small strip center at 13206 W. U.S. Highway 42, with ample parking and plenty of room for a real restaurant kitchen. “A lot of it was just wanting something different,” Fults said of the move.
Plus, she lives five minutes away. Fults and her partner moved to Prospect about two years ago, she said.
Melrose Cafe won’t be 100 percent new, as Fults plans to include some popular dishes from Meridian Cafe on the restaurant’s menu. “Things that people loved and the reason I think Meridian was around so long,” she said. Holdovers include the Hall and Oats cakes, French toast and the Richie, a falafel with swiss, cheddar, feta, sunflower seeds, avocado, tomatoes and tahini sauce.
However, the new and larger kitchen will allow her to add heartier items to the menu such as a burger or salmon dish to complement the sandwiches and salads. Fults said many of Meridian Cafe’s lunch clients were moms and working women who craved lighter meals. With the menu additions, she said she hopes to have offerings that appeal to men as well.
Another new feature at Melrose Cafe is a coffee bar and lounge area to provide a local alternative to Starbucks, Fults said. Melrose Cafe will seat about 80 people in the dining room, 12 at the bar and several others on the couches in the lounge area.
Eventually, Melrose Cafe may also offer dinner to serve nearby residents, but Fults noted that the business wouldn’t stay open too late since Prospect becomes a ghost town after 8 p.m.
“Dinner is definitely something I have in the wheelhouse,” she said.