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Charles Town church gets into the restaurant business

March 26, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The Charles Town area's newest restaurant features menu items like lamb and beef gyros with sweet potato fries, penne pasta tossed with fresh vegetables, and marinara sauce and chicken parmigiana.

So where is it?

That's the twist.

Hint: It is named Paul's, after the apostle who was instrumental in explaining and spreading Christianity.

If you guessed it's part of the community-minded projects at Oakland United Methodist Church, you're right.

Officials with the church, a 125-year-old organization along W.Va. 9 across from the Crosswinds subdivision east of town, have wanted for years to find new ways to meet the needs of the community in addition to providing spiritual support.

Several years ago, church officials began talking about annexing 124 acres of land into the City of Charles Town where they are interested in building an assisted living center, a child-care center, a medical center and a community center.

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The land has been annexed into the city.

Church officials say they want to work on ways to improve the quality of life for people in the community, and Mayor Peggy Smith said such projects are important to help build the city's commercial base.

The arrival of Paul's is part of the church's move to support the community, particularly the commuter population, senior pastor JoAnne Alexander said.

The restaurant specializes in take-out meals, and Alexander said she hopes the service will help take the pressure off commuters who are busy juggling their family needs and jobs.

Commuters are able to call ahead to place orders at Paul's, Alexander said. Commuters can then have their children set the table and dinner will be complete, Alexander said.

Paul's had a "soft opening" in February so church officials could make sure the operations were going smoothly for the nonprofit operation, said Jack Zaleski, the church's finance officer.

Now, Paul's is serving Tuesday through Saturday. And although the church wanted to concentrate on carry-out items, there are some areas set aside near the kitchen for sit-down eating, Zaleski said.

The chef at Paul's is Iwayan Rata, known among some local residents for his culinary skills.

"He can cook anything," Zaleski said.

One of the often-mentioned items on the menu is the restaurant's "genuine broasted chicken" which offers a more tender, juicy and flavorful chicken with a fraction of the carbs offered by other outlets, according to the menu.

The menu also includes soups, salads, sandwiches - like pulled pork barbecue - grilled pork loin, seafood crepes, and deserts - like cherry and apple turnovers and pumpkin roll. Prices range from $3.95 to $7.95 for sandwiches and $7.95 to $13.95 for entrees.

Zaleski said he can understand that some people might question a church having a restaurant, but Paul's has all the business approvals it needs and has received necessary health department approvals.

And it is not unusual for churches in larger cities to have restaurants, Zaleski said.

"We're not really breaking new ground, except locally. We didn't invent this," Zaleski said.

Church officials have said that they would consider building homes on about 40 acres to help pay for the facilities they want to build. The restaurant will blend with a community center that will cost at least $2 million and will allow the restaurant to have seating for up to 70 people, according to plans.

Charles Town City Council member Geraldine Willingham praised Oakland United Methodist Church for its projects and said they will benefit the entire community.

Willingham said she can't remember a local church attempting something like a restaurant.

"I'm sure in other places, there probably is (some church restaurants)," Willingham said.

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