Chef/restaurateur Ken Vedrinski is no stranger to bad locations.
Back when he was still a hired gun, Vedrinski got plenty of attention as executive chef at the Woodlands Resort and Inn, which is essentially a big house in the middle of the woods on the outskirts of Summerville. People came from all over to eat his amazing food. When he left Woodlands to open his own place, he led the wagon train to Daniel Island, where he battled high rents and a small population but still attracted a loyal following for his Italian restaurant Sienna. And when he decided to join the fray downtown, he eschewed the well-lit paths of King, East Bay, and Meeting, instead heading right into the 'hood on Bogard Street, where he's had no trouble luring customers to Trattoria Lucca with the seductive combination of low prices and stellar quality.
"I've had two other half-baked locations," he says, "and I've done pretty well." So, he's not too worried about the fact that the Cigar Factory development has come to a screeching halt. Vedrinski's next restaurant Introdacqua, an Italian seafood concept, is being planned and built in the ambitious East Bay Street redevelopment of the old Cigar Factory. Last week, the Post and Courier reported that the developer, The Simpson Organization of Atlanta, has lost its funding and halted the project until a new source can be found.
Vedrinski says his space is completely separate from the rest of the development and he can move forward and open as planned in February. That is, if the landlord will landscape the grounds in front and finish the parking lot in back. "If he agrees to finish that, then I don't see a problem," he says. "It's not ideal. It looks like shit, but if I've got parking, I'm still going to make a go of it."
And he's confident that Simpson will be able to figure out how to finance the rest. "He's got $44 million in it," he says. "The perception is that it's a failed development, but it's not."
Not an ideal situation, but Vedrinski says his concept to provide the freshest seafood prepared the Italian way is solid and unique. "There's nothing like this in Charleston, and I think we can do really well with it."
If he continues to marry reasonable prices and excellent quality, then he has nothing to worry about. I know plenty of foodies out there who would eat his food wherever he wanted to serve it.