Though one of Cummel's great draws is its laid-back atmosphere, make no mistake about it: Keeping the place up and running has required buckets of will, grit and headstrong determination on the part of proprietor Janese Henry. In fact, Cummel's on-again, off-again, but-then-always-back-on-again history downtown should serve as a blueprint for aspiring restaurateurs and small-business owners alike.
About a dozen years ago, Henry ran Cummel's at 16th and Locust streets, across from the YMCA. Business was brisk and pleasant, with a heavy regular clientele, until, says Henry, "one day, pretty much out of nowhere, business dried up. I knew I had to relocate." That she did, thus kicking off Cummel's first Washington Avenue incarnation. "I was in the thick of all the clubs there, and we had all this building space -- but nobody was in the buildings." Before low foot traffic could prove too much of a problem, though, the building that housed Cummel's was bought and Henry wasn't given the option to renew.
That was two years ago. Now Cummel's is back on Washington, and Henry is happier than ever. Expansion plans are already under way: By springtime, Henry is hoping, Cummel's will stay open until 10 p.m. during the week and 1 a.m. on the weekends, with an open mic on Thursdays and local acts booked for the weekends. The side alley that borders Cummel's will also open as patio seating.
"This location really makes me feel like I've come full circle with Cummel's," says Henry. "From the windows here, I can see the building where I first got my start."