Hometown pride is a feeling that exists for many of us throughout Hampton Roads. But that pride and ownership of the community you live in takes on a deeper appreciation when you have been such a big part of creating it.
That, in a nutshell, is Malia Paasch. You might know her as the owner of The Birch, Norfolk’s first craft beer bar located in the Chelsea Business District, which has been around for an applause-worthy 8 years.
But rather than expand the already successful Birch or take on multiple locations, she was up for a bit more of a challenge.
“I felt ready for something new to focus on, and well, when the opportunity to create Four Eleven York presented itself, we knew we had to move on it,” Malia tells us.
How It All Began
Inspired by a boutique inn in Charleston, SC, Malia and her partner and significant other, Jeremy, had the idea to develop a dual concept, high-end restaurant and inn, in the heart of in Norfolk.
“You could open a similar concept in various populated cities throughout the country and just be one of a dozen. But not here. This is where I grew up and I saw it as bringing something new and different to the area. It excites me to be able to create a community where I live and see it evolve,” Malia adds.
On the busy roadside of West York Street, you may recall Machismo Burrito Bar and the longstanding Freemason Inn. As years past, Machismo closed leaving a vacant building, next to the also retired Inn.
“We had toured the Freemason Inn on a few instances, but the timing was never quite right. So, when the Inn went on auction and the two properties became available next to each other, that was just huge. We decided it was time to kick it into high gear,” Malia recalls.
The Décor and Ambiance
Today, when you walk into Four Eleven York’s intimate dining space, your eyes scan the room, landing on multiple textures, styles, and intricately thought-out details.
It is unquestionably fine dining but attractively achieved in an approachable, unfussed, and comfortable atmosphere. Fittingly, it makes you feel right at home.
Malia enlisted the help of Allison Whitmore and Leslie Drinkwalter of Spruce Home + Design and Space Design Group (also a previous Business Spotlight), to carry out her vision.
Between the exposed brick, polished countertops, rustic chairs, tasteful artwork, and a large, modern bar that greets you upon entrance, it is clearly the design of experts.
“I’ve known the women of Space Design Group for years. I really enjoy working with designers who have insight into high-end brands and curating products that the average person wouldn’t have access to. There were a lot of elements that needed to be drawn together and I’m just so happy with how it all turned out,” Malia expresses.
The Inn has been restored, but not left without the original bones and structures that make it feel so tried and true. Little touches like the wood trim were left to shine amongst the sophisticated chandeliers, elegant wallpaper, and artisan rugs.
The building has three bedrooms on the second floor and a two bedroom suite on the third floor.
“We expect for most of our guests to be “staycationers” from surrounding Hampton Roads cities. We’ll most likely also see people traveling for business looking for something that feels more personal,” Malia replies.
The Food, Drink and Staff
The restaurant at Four Eleven York is a Mid-Atlantic specialty, with a focus on fresh-caught fish, handmade pasta dishes, and Virginia wines and spirits, with a nod to seasonal availability.
As if Malia wasn’t impressive enough herself, she’s well-supported by a celebrated executive chef, a cocktail competition-winning bar director, and an all-star team that takes the service they provide at Four Eleven York seriously. (You may even be waited on by Malia herself on the weekends.)
Chef Shawn Matijevich has a resumé to compete with the best of them.
Growing up in Smithfield, VA, he had a short stint working at the Smithfield Inn and even the original Freemason Inn, before cooking for the Navy, and spending a long time living in Vietnam.
Shawn then worked with acclaimed Chef Brian Voltaggio at Range and even at BLT Prime in the Trump Hotel.
“Homemade pasta is really his specialty, and of course, you have to try his fish. We have 3 pasta dishes on the menu right now! Even though we’re Contemporary American food, there’s an ever-so-subtle Asian flair, coming from his experiences in Vietnam,” Malia shares.
Bar Director Matt Labarge was previously bartending at Public House. Malia and Jeremy would frequent the place just to get him to mix up different specialty cocktails and experiment with the types of spirits used in them – mainly bourbon and whiskey at the time.
“We sort of formed a collaborative bond with him. After experiencing his cocktail-crafting skills first-hand, we knew he’d be able to lead the effort at Four Eleven York. We juice most of our mixes in-house, use home-grown garnishes, and other made-from-scratch ingredients. You can really tell the difference.”
Challenges & Looking Forward
When asked what her biggest obstacle has been so far in the process, Malia replied, “There are challenges everyday – it’s a restaurant. It’s a working organism. Learning the processes of city regulations was a challenge, but fortunately, I’d done it once before.”
Malia also likes being busy and staying active throughout the day.
“Right now, I’m doing the social media, menu writing, the tasting, being here for deliveries…but I like having my hand in everything. I think it’s important to know how to do all of the roles and understand every aspect of the business,” she continues.
So far, the response to the restaurant has been amazing and is something Malia feels really proud of. Rightfully so!
“Right now, I’m most looking forward to the Inn officially being open, taking people on tours, and hosting an Open House for the neighbors,” Malia says with a confident enthusiasm.
The restauranteur has already been asked numerous times about their plans to serve lunch in addition to dinner and weekend brunch.
“We’ve bounced around the idea but are mindful of not sacrificing on quality to take on more. We want the best possible food and service at every experience.”
Advice for Other Aspiring Business Owners
Naturally, you are not going to be the best at everything as a small business owner. You have to bring in experts to help you juggle it all.
Malia understands this and is passionate about crediting her staff and aligning herself with other small businesses in the area.
“Whether it’s working with designers or getting help with fresh flowers, you have to rely on other people to help. You start one place, and then it grows. Working with other small businesses helps your business grow as well,” Malia shares.
How to Experience Four Eleven York
With the Inn’s upcoming opening in early 2019, you can dine at the restaurant and/or follow along on Instagram and Facebook in the meantime.
Four Eleven York is located at 411 York Street Norfolk, VA 23510 and open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday, plus brunch on the weekends. Reservations are recommended. Browse the menu or get in touch on their website.
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