Cajun and Italian Restaurant Filling Vacant Former Main Street Photo Building
Marshfield’s downtown is getting a new place to eat. A restaurant called MoJo’s Pasta House and Cajun Cook Shack is moving into the former Main Street Photo building at the corner of Second Street and Central Avenue with a target opening date in early June. The historic downtown building has been under construction since February, and is owned by Marshfield residents Christopher and Erin Howard.
Erin, who also serves as Board President for Main Street Marshfield, purchased the building with her husband in an effort to further their vision for downtown Marshfield.
Their goal is to have professional services on side streets, with retail and restaurant space on the main street.
They originally intended to purchase the property as a result of the Second Street corridor project with the main focus of finding a restaurant. Since that time, they have been seeking the right tenant and are happy with their findings. The restaurant is owned by Matt and Jen Olson, who have been in food service for 20 years in a variety of venues, from bar and grill, to fine dining, to owning their own place.
“We are doing a pasta house and Cajun cook shack,” said Jen. “The most important thing for us was to do something as a family that was reflective of who we are.”
Everything will be made fresh, including making the pasta and the sauces on-site. “The most important thing is that when you come in, you are going to get a fresh-made product made for you,” she added.
It will be a “fast-casual” type restaurant. “This is a trend that is going to be developing,” said Matt. “It’s between sit-down and fast-food, but with high quality ingredients. All seafood is going to be sustainable and traceable.” The Olsons also plan to use local products like cheese, meat, and baked goods.
“We love pasta, we love Italian, and if we get hungry for it, there isn’t really anyone in town that specializes in it,” explained Jen. “We saw that there was a need for that.”
The menu was selected with care. “Everything on the menu is a little piece of us,” she said. One dish will be “Pasta Jumbalaya.”
The Olsons moved to Marshfield in the 80s, and Matt spent his childhood locally too. They moved to Marshfield to raise their young family, now grown, and decided to open a restaurant in the city that would fill a need.
“How can we produce food that’s fresh, of good quality, that can get to the people quickly?” said Matt. The restaurant’s concept is a “food truck without wheels.”
The Olsons met the Howards and worked with them to develop the idea, spending six months developing the project. “It’s just the right time for all of this to be happening for us,” Matt said. He will be devoting his full time to the restaurant, while Jen will remain in her current position.
“We wanted to be part of the downtown culture and help that grow,” said Jen, who serves on a Main Street committee. “Anything that we can do to encourage someone to develop a restaurant concept and bring it downtown, we’d be on board 110% to help make that happen.”
“The relationship that we’ve formed with the Howards has been a very huge part of us being able to keep pushing forward,” she said.
“It feels like more of a partnership than a landlord-tenant relationship,” added Matt.
All of the food will be served in takeout containers, and there will be a deli case where customers can grab-and-go.
MoJo’s is expected to open in June, and features casual Cajun dining. Outdoor seating is also expected to be available. The restaurant’s expected hours are 11-7 p.m Tuesdays through Saturdays with special hours during downtown events. Monday afternoons are also possible. The Olson’s high school-aged daughter is developing a student menu.
“We’re building a business for the kids,” said Matt.
Walking into the space, there’s a counter and a seating area. “They picked the theme and we’ve seen some of the stuff they are going to put in there, and it’s fantastic,” said Chris Howard.
The building’s hardwood floors were restored. Erin’s goal was to create a “whole community” in the space, which includes office space upstairs, a large common area. The Howards have already secured three tenants. Contour’s Body Sculpting and Gateway’s Counseling Services will be upstairs, and Thrivent Financial is already installed.
The main contractor when renovating the space was Country Home Builders. Called the Deming Building and originally built in 1898, the building was named after an upstairs lawyer named Deming. From the 80’s to 2017, American Images filled the space.
“Chris and I are big advocates for our downtown, and we truly believe that restaurant retail should be on the main drag,” said Erin. “We truly believe we can create a destination downtown.”
They came up with their vision a year ago and were careful about crafting the space. “It’s not about filling the space. It’s about finding the right tenants,” she said. “We were so blessed to have met Matt and Jen.”
They add that the City of Marshfield has been easy to work with through the process.
“We’re really excited about the whole concept,” said Erin. “You need to create an experience for people when they go out.”