Ex-WVU standout Owen Schmitt to open restaurantFront Sports Page News Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 Would you like to receive e-mail alerts when we have breaking news? Click here!
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — After years of being cheered on by Mountaineer faithful, former West Virginia University standout Owen Schmitt says he’s ready to start giving something back to his adopted home state.
Schmitt, the “Runaway Beer Truck” fullback who helped the Mountaineers win Fiesta and Sugar Bowl titles in the late 2000s, is about to take on a new position: business owner.
Schmitt and his business partner, Todd King, are currently renovating the future home of “Schmitt’s Saloon,” a restaurant, pub and music hall that Schmitt hopes will offer customers something new and different.
“We want to be unique,” Schmitt said. “We don’t want to be the same as everything else.”
Schmitt, who played last year for the Oakland Raiders and is currently an NFL free agent, has been to a lot of places since he graduated from WVU in 2008.
He said he wanted to bring some of what he has encountered in his travels back to Morgantown, but he never felt the timing was right until now.
“It’s kind of something you always wanted to do but never got the opportunity,” Schmitt said. “It just feels like there’s so many good pieces to the puzzle in place now.”
King, a 30-year-old Wetzel county native, approached Schmitt with the proposal last year. He flew to Oakland to present the concept to Schmitt in person.
Schmitt said he had heard the general idea before, but King was able to sell him on the concept.
“I had people come to me in the past with glorious stories of elaborate bars that they were thinking of opening up and using me as a catch,” he said. “But Todd came to me with fully-prepared business plans with organizers and down to the last cent of what we’re to going to spend.”
While King’s ideas looked profitable, Schmitt said he was thinking beyond the bottom line.
“Obviously, we’d like to make money, but that’s not the sole purpose,” he said. “The sole purpose is to create a place that’s fun, where people can come and hang out and enjoy some good tunes and good food and a have a good time.”
Schmitt said creating an enjoyable atmosphere is a driving goal for him. He sees it as a way of giving back to the state that embraced him during WVU playing days.
“I can’t even explain how great of a career and how big of a memory that made for me,” Schmitt said.
“Those were the best days of my life, being able to play for the university and go to school there and graduate here,” he said. “And now, being able to meet people who cheered us on, and talk to them and find out who they are, it’s been really cool to be able to do that.”
He’s now hoping to feed those fans as well. And to do that, he and King have come up with a truly unique menu.
For inspiration, King drew upon ideas he came across working with Chef Brian Duffy from the Spike TV show “Bar Rescue.”
“I picked out a few items in my travels that I absolutely loved and think would work in Morgantown,” King said.
The menu includes traditional favorites like burgers and fries, but with a twist.
The burgers have cheese on the inside that will ooze out as customers bite into them and make the meat seem more flavorful.
The fries aren’t just sweet potato fries, but sweet potato fries topped with bacon, dried banana chips and a peanut sauce.
“You’re getting the sweet from the banana chips and the salty from the bacon and you’re getting the peanut sauce,” King said.
“Instead of jalapeno poppers, we’re taking jalapenos and broiling them and cream cheese or some other types of cheeses, and wrapped in bacon and broiling them,” he said.
Also unique, deviled eggs topped with a bourbon and brown sugar glaze and deep fried pizza. The pizza dough is deep fried before toppings are added.
But this pub isn’t supposed to be just a haven for food junkies or Mountaineer fans.
Schmitt said he’s partnering with native West Virginia band the Davisson Brothers to make it not only “Schmitt’s Saloon,” but now “Schmitt’s Saloon and the Davisson Brothers Music Hall.”
Schmitt has developed close ties with the band over the years. He plays guitar with them at some shows around the state.
He said he developed a close friendship with guitarist Chris Davisson, who is taking the lead in making Schmitt’s Saloon a premier performance hall.
King said more than $20,000 has been invested to install a state-of-the-art digital sound system and stage in the tavern. It’s designed to serve not only as the home base for the Davisson Brothers band, but also as a regular stop for many home-grown West Virginia bands.
Schmitt said everything from the 32-track digital mixer to JBL-brand speakers are designed to give local acts top-of-the-line treatment when they play.
He said he hopes that helps keep the music hall filled with bands three or four nights a week.
“We want the music to sound good, we want the bands to sound good so that people can enjoy the music that’s being played,” Schmitt said.
In addition to the food and music, the bar’s interior will feature reclaimed wood from Monongalia and Preston counties.
Schmitt’s Saloon is at 245 Cheat Road in the former Rhythm and Brews location across from the Glenmark Center off the Pierpont Road exit of Interstate 68 in Morgantown.
Schmitt and King said they have had good feedback since announcing the location earlier this month. They hope if the saloon goes well, they can open locations in other parts of the state.
“All I can do with this place is try to put everything into what this state has put into me and try to make this the best place for them,” Schmitt said. “It’s always fun to put yourself out there and take risks like that, and hopefully people like it.”