Regretfully, and because of circumstances beyond my personal control, The Inn at Duck Creek has closed its doors as of September 6, 2016. We are very grateful to everyone who has taken this journey with us. Thank you for all of your support, your kindness, and for believing in us. To Ed and Cheryl Ide, Mayor Masten and the rest of the Town of Smyrna, a heartfelt thank you, as we couldn't have done any of it without you. To our staff, a huge thank you for your valiant efforts during difficult times, and your loyalty and kindness is so very much appreciated. Wishing you all a very happy holiday season filled with peace, love and happiness, and most of all a prosperous 2017. All the very best to you and yours! Donna Ignasz
The Inn at Duck Creek is the first upscale casual restaurant in the quaint little Town of Smyrna, Delaware. Experience a “fine dining” experience with the charm and ambience of restored historic buildings dating back to the 1700’s. Enjoy the simple elegance and warmth of a fireplace in each of the dining rooms, or the cozy casual feel of the Tavern, where upstairs you’ll find yourself sitting in the turret of this wonderful old building, yet surrounded by the warm of a fireplace and contemporary accents. We are truly farm to table, supporting local farmers, breweries, wineries and distilleries, which allows us to keep our menu fresh as the seasons change. Enjoy a more formal menu in the restaurant featuring items such as fresh duck, steaks and seafood, to the more casual menu in the Tavern which features items such as farm fresh burgers, flatbreads, and sandwiches. Perhaps enjoy one of our decadent desserts or homemade ice cream, made fresh in-house daily, with a cup of specialty coffee, aperitif or dessert martini. The Inn will offer a full service bar with a wonderful selection of craft beers on tap, a large selection of bottled beers, wines, champagnes, and cocktails. We look forward to creating an unforgettable dining experience for our guests and to be able to showcase our restoration of these wonderful old buildings.
Thank you for Your Business!
Donna’s passion for food started at a very early age while living in the Caribbean. It was there she stood by the household chef and learned how to cook “real” Jamaican food at the age of 7. In exploring the majority of the Caribbean over her many years, she learned the true meaning of the cultures of each new place, experiencing many different things and upon returning home, would create many of the dishes that were enjoyed while abroad. Her true passion is people, and cooking, and bringing people together to enjoy the intimacy of a wonderful meal or simple gathering. For many years, the people that know Donna always said she follow her dreams and open a restaurant. It wasn’t until June of 2014, when she was approached by Howard Johnson and other key people in town, that this dream has now become a reality. Donna’s entrepreneurial spirit that stemmed from owning three very successful businesses, as well as 25 years in financial services, combined with 10 years in the hospitality and large group incentive travel business, makes Donna a valuable partner in this venture. Just like her business partner, Howard Johnson, she loves the hustle bustle of small towns and currently resides in Smyrna. She serves on the Economic Development Committee for the Town of Smyrna, and is committed to helping to revitalize the town, while keeping the rich historical aspects intact, for the entire town and visitors to enjoy.
Howard A. Johnson
Howard Johnson was the director of operations for a quick service restaurant group for more than fifteen years. He developed a small single unit company into over thirty seven operating units. Howard was fortunate to be involved and served on the marketing board as Chairman for over ten years. He found that he was able to learn from so many wonderful people and experiences. Following his career as Director of Operations, Howard developed and opened The Odd Fellows Cafe in the historic district of Smyrna, Delaware. This was an exciting project and enabled him to fully understand the needs of this market. Howard sold the Cafe in July of 2014 in order to develop his next adventure, The Inn at Duck Creek.
Howard and his partner moved to Smyrna, in the historic district, in 2012 and found a community in need of redevelopment. He has a passion for the town and has fallen in love with Smyrna. Howard feels that The Inn at Duck Creek will be a key component in the rebirth of our historic downtown cross roads. He feels that he was fortunate to have partnered with Donna Ignasz in this venture, and the combination of their collective business backgrounds should prove to be the perfect team and they are looking forward to serving our community.
Andrew Cini is a young Delaware native chef, who has worked in local kitchens since the age of 15. Andrew's food is rooted deep in family tradition. Early on he learned both the importance of fresh from the garden ingredients, and the appreciation of a home cooked meal from his parents and grand father. His passion for food has afforded Andrew the opportunity to work in local flagship restaurants such as the Columbus Inn (Wilmington), Sovana Bistro (Kennet square), Salt Air ( Rehoboth), and Eclipse Bistro (Wilmington). Andrew has helmed the kitchen at newer establishments Bella Coast in Wilmington, and Boxcar Brewpub in West Chester, previous to joining the team at the Inn at Duck Creek. Andrew's style is strongly influenced by southern low country cuisine with a nod to French technique. His passion for food does not stop at the stove, as Andrew enjoys writing for different food blog web sites and has hosted pop up restaurants events in his off time.
E. Seger - Bravo! Well done! I walked through The Inn a couple of days ago and found WONDERFUL spaces and decisions at every turn. You have made so many good choices in décor, colors and detail that it comes as no surprise where you decided to hang the painting, "Through Providence Pines." It looks great in the hallway. Good for you! Many thanks! Looking forward to sharing a drink and having a meal in your BEAUTIFUL new restaurant
Linda Steele Mitchell - Donna am sooooooooooooooo proud of you lady - you are it!!!!! So articulate so smart! God speed to you and your partner You will be a success!!!.
June Jackson - WOW, so exciting to see the transformation you folks have made in the Barber Shop of yesteryear!!!!
Lisa Giglio Stonesifer - 5 star - I recently had the privilege to host a party which was catered by the staff of The Inn at Duck Creek. Our guests are still raving about the food and the service. The entire staff was professional and catered to the needs of our guests the entire night. The food, prepared by Chris Rauber was INCREDIBLE!! I do believe Howard Johnson & Donna Ignasz that if our party is any indication, you will have a huge hit on your hands with The Inn at Duck Creek!!
Carol Christman - Looking forward to the grand opening! You'll be everything you were in the past & more. It will be nice to see past history brought to life in our sleepy town.....can't wait!
Kendra Friel - So excited about this! Smyrna has so much to offer, it just takes the right people with the right ideas to bring it out!
Cathy Cole Williams - “My dad--Vance Cole-- owned Vance's Barber Shop on the corner for about 50 years. We lived upstairs in the apartment until I was about 2 years old. I told him of the renovation plans, and we are all so happy to know a quality business will be on Smyrna's Four Corners! I spent many days watching my dad cut hair in his shop, and I am looking forward to coming there the next time I come home for a visit! We wish you the best of luck and much success and happiness!”
Inn at Duck Creek restaurant-tavern opening in Smyrna
Reprinted from delawareonline - Dec. 30, 2015
SMYRNA - Arriving at a party before the hosts are ready to welcome guests could be perceived as bad manners.
But Howard Johnson and Donna Ignasz, business partners in The Inn at Duck Creek along with investor Robin Burris, can’t wait to show visitors around the new restaurant they plan to open Wednesday for dinner service.
The 100-seat casual tavern and more upscale farm-to-table eatery in three adjoining 18th-century buildings at East Commerce and North Main streets, an intersection known as Smyrna’s Four Corners, has been in the works since 2014.
While most of the major restorations have been completed, Johnson and Ignasz know the devil is in the details.
As workers on Monday completed paint touchups both inside and out and the aroma of polyurethane hung heavily in the air, the partners talked about running through a lengthy to-do list that included rearranging furniture, hanging artwork, replacing a chandelier light bulb, unfolding linens and setting tables in six dining rooms.
Donna Ignasz and Howard Johnson will soon begin welcoming guests to the Inn at Duck Creek in Smyrna
All five gas fireplaces will roar to life, eventually, but the lines still need to be connected. For now, the hearths will be filled with plants.
More tweaks will be made to the site in the coming weeks, but the “soft” opening is set for Wednesday and Johnson says he has already accepted reservations for New Year’s Eve. Reservations must be made for the restaurant, but walk-ins are welcome in the tavern.
“We’re a little nervous, but we’ll be OK,” Johnson says. “We just want to make sure we don’t disappoint anyone.”
The building’s owner Edward H. Ide, who runs i3a, a Smyrna engineering and construction management firm, is still working on the exterior and plans to remove paint and expose the building’s brick. Ide has purchased and rehabbed several historic buildings in the area.
The Inn at Duck Creek menu created by executive chef Chris Rauber, formerly of the Gladstone (N.J.) Tavern, will be somewhat smaller in the first few weeks of the opening, but it will grow as the staff relaxes into a groove and finds its comfort zone.
“We don’t want to overpromise and under deliver,” says Ignasz. The menu will be posted on the website, www.theinnatduckcreek.com
As with any new restaurant, and especially historic buildings, there have been some hiccups and delays along the way. The partners have been nudging along the project in Smyrna’s historic downtown for about 1 1/2 years and initially hoped to open last summer.
It look a while before a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded to the town came through. And most recently, Ignasz had a spill down some steps of her home on Dec. 23 and broke her ankle. But it didn’t stop her from gamely hobbling up and down one of the restaurant’s staircases – there’s also a handicap accessible entrance – and darting in and out of the tavern and the dining rooms, pointing out new details and updates in what had once been a construction zone.
Ignasz shows off a portrait of Smyrna barber Vance Cole that now hangs in the tavern area. The bar area, with its 10 seats and surrounding tables, had once housed the barbershop Cole opened when President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office and ran for nearly 50 years.
Nearby, Ignasz shows copies of vintage photos of Smyrna she found in the Delaware State Archives.
For the past few months, the partners have been scouring antique shops and auctions for pieces to decorate the restaurant. Slowly, the decor has come together. A new stained glass window at the staircase landing fit perfectly, Ignasz says. Johnson shows off an antique chandelier that once hung in a Wilmington home.
Each dining room tells a story. The bottom floor showcases the Governor’s Room and features a portrait of Smyrna resident William Temple, who at age 32 in 1846, became the youngest governor to serve the state.
Town residents have sponsored other dining rooms, including the Covert Room, Bailey Room, Reed Room and the Ide Room. One is still available. (For $3,000, you can have a room named after you and have a say in its decor.) The Smyrna Garden Club decorated for the holiday season, and greens, holly and bows decorate mantels, window sills and staircase railings.
Johnson seems most proud of the elegant dining rooms chairs purchased from a Cambridge, Maryland, warehouse. He and his partners then sanded, stained and put polyurethane on more than 40 chairs. They then sent the chairs to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, a prison facility for men in Smyrna, where inmates did the upholstery.
“It was a third of what it would have cost if we bought them new,” Johnson says. “We had a budget and we had to maintain it. A project like this [restoration] would usually be about $1 to $2 million. We spent $300,000.”
“It was a tough, hard project. We hope we did something to benefit the revitalization of downtown,” Johnson says and then marvels at the surroundings.
“This is so much more than we ever anticipated.”
Smyrna banks on booze, millennials' love of locals Kent County town soon will have the drinker's trifecta: a distillery, a production brewery and a brewpub
Reprinted from delawareonline - Dec. 18, 2015
Past Struggles - Chapter 1
Smyrna has been a lot of things over the years.
A hub of shipbuilding and maritime trade during pre-Revolutionary times when big boats could navigate Duck Creek. A rest stop on the way to Delaware beaches. For a time, it was even one of the few places an adventurous diner could get muskrat.
But one thing Smyrna has never been is cool –– until now.
“I definitely think Smyrna is cool,” said Amanda Kingston, a 28-year-old pediatric physical therapist who moved to the area after college. “On one hand, it’s this small town where everyone knows everyone. And now there are all these new places that are starting to attract a young, up-and-coming crowd. It’s awesome to see that happening from the ground up.”
Sandwiched between Dover and Middletown, Smyrna long struggled to attract economic development that would give the town a distinctive character.
“It’s never had a huge downtown commercial district,” Town Manager David Hugg said. “And Smyrna was sort of left out of the economic boom because we’re almost too close to those larger towns.”
But Kingston and other downstate millennials now are being drawn to Smyrna's rapidly growing small business sector, a mix of locally owned watering holes and restaurants that are transforming Delaware’s fifth-largest municipality into a sweet spot for anyone who loves adult beverages, good food and live music.
Early next year, Smyrna will become the only Delaware town to offer the drinker’s trifecta: a production brewery, a distillery and a brewpub.
New eateries, shows at the Smyrna Opera House and a homegrown music festival also are helping to re-make the bedroom community into a downstate nightlife destination.
Throw in a first-ever state football championship for the local high school, along with a Delaware teacher of the year nod for local educator Sandra Hall, and Smyrna's fortunes may have never looked better.
Becoming a Destination - Chapter 2
The town's recent boom in businesses catering to adult fun-seekers is neither an accident nor an overnight success, said Hugg, a retired director of the state planning office who became Smyrna's chief administrative officer in 2002.
“We’ve been working for some time on a strategy that brings in unique identities to make Smyrna a bit more of a destination and not just another place along the side of the road,” he said.
For decades, that’s probably how most visitors knew the town best: A convenient stop on U.S. 13 to gas up and grab a quick bite to eat.
But even that decidedly uncool identity began to wane after completion of the Del. 1 freeway in 2003.
Today, Smyrna’s U.S. 13 corridor is “unattractive, under-utilized and functions primarily to move vehicles through the region,” according to the town’s 2014 economic development strategy.
The addition of Route 1 has not been all bad for Smyrna, however.
The highway, Hugg said, has helped to attract an influx of new residents. Smyrna, home to commuters whose jobs are scattered around the Mid-Atlantic, has seen its population double to 11,000 residents over the last 25 years.
"People discovered Smyrna is a convenient drive to anywhere in the state in about 45 minutes, and Philadelphia in a little over an hour," Hugg said. "We have a good school system, relatively low home prices and reasonable taxes, plus it’s a good place to raise a family and live."
Smyrna native Marquea King chose to return to Smyrna to raise her family, even while making a daily 200-mile roundtrip commute to Arlington, Virginia, where she works as a toxicologist with the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Ultimately, it's the quality of life here," said the 40-year-old mother of three boys between the ages of 3 and 11. "Smyrna still has that quiet family appeal. The hustle and bustle of city life, especially with small children, is not for me."
With more than 800 new homes started since 2007, many longtime residents and those who moved away when they were younger say the town no longer feels small.
“I’m always amazed at how much Smyrna has grown,” said Kelley Wallace, a former resident who still visits family in the area. “What used to be empty fields are now big housing developments.”
While the growth has rendered the town unrecognizable to some, many who moved to Smyrna in recent years say they chose the town specifically for its quaint appeal.
“To me, Dover feels like it’s one big strip mall, while Middletown is overgrown,” said Jennifer Sutter, an occupational health consultant for Bayhealth who moved to town in 2009. “But Smyrna still has that small town feel I love.”
While the town's population has swelled, it's relative lack of commercial growth has allowed Smyrna to preserve that small town charm.
More than a decade ago, town officials recognized that charm had become Smyrna's greatest asset and set out to encourage distinctive small businesses that could enhance that appeal.
Rather than focus on the highway, they’ve pushed to move the center of commerce back to downtown.
Smyrna’s first big step in that direction, Hugg said, came when Joe and Shirley Sheridan bought and renovated what had been a rundown bar at the corner of Commerce and Market Street Plaza and transformed it into Sheridan’s Irish Pub.
“We actually came to town looking for a house and bought this instead,” said Shirley, who with her husband previously owned A Piece of Ireland in Ogletown.
The couple closed their New Castle County drinking hole in favor of a fresh start downstate.
“At the time, people asked us, ‘Why Smyrna?” she said. “Our answer was, ‘Why not?”
Drinker's Delight - Chapter 3
Today, the source of Smyrna’s burgeoning coolness centers on the craft booze movement, which attracts those who appreciate unique experiences.
Since Sam Calagione founded Dogfish Head in 1995, at least six other breweries, four wineries, two distilleries and numerous brewpubs have followed in Delaware – with more on the way.
Milton and Milford to the south each have remade themselves in recent decades through a combination of the arts and new businesses that include Dogfish Head and Mispillion River Brewing.
But Smyrna appears to be taking advantage of recent changes to the state’s alcohol laws like no other town in Delaware.
Painted Stave Distilling was the first to arrive in 2013, followed by Blue Earl Brewery earlier this year. And once Brickworks brewpub opens next spring, Smyrna will be the only town with three kinds of alcoholic beverage makers allowed under state law.
“I guess all we’re missing now is a winery,” Hugg said. “But Harvest Ridge Winery in Marydel already comes to a lot of our events.”
Delaware Brew Bus, a fully licensed and insured limousine service launched in Smyrna this summer, takes private parties and public tours on excursions to Kent County’s hottest drink makers, including Painted Stave and Blue Earl.
With alcohol tourism now making up the fastest growing segment of visitors to the First State, Smyrna is poised to reap benefits from those traveling to Delaware, as well as locals looking for a fun night out.
“It’s a town that understands these are businesses that can attract an energetic crowd,” said state tourism director Linda Parkowsi. “And the businesses, in turn, are proving that Smyrna can be viable as an entertainment center.”
Painted Stave owners Ron Gomes and Mike Ramussen, both out-of-state transplants, initially considered opening in Middletown but were wooed away by Hugg and Smyrna town officials.
The duo said they have not regretted their decision since launching the state’s first standalone distillery in the former Smyrna Theater on Commerce Street.
“Geographically, I think we’re far enough north in Kent County that we can draw a good population from New Castle County down to Milford,” Rasmussen said. “But even in town, there are a lot of young families and folks who moved here from out of state that are really looking for something fun to do.”
Having already introduced lines of whiskey, gin and multiple vodkas, Painted Stave last month released the First State’s first-ever bourbon –– at least one that wasn't secretly made in a backwoods still.
The first 160-bottle batch of the year-old hootch sold out in less than a hour. A second, larger release is now set for Feb. 26 – with bottles to be sold in stores – followed by a two-year vintage next winter.
Ron Price said he’s experienced similar support since opening Blue Earl Brewing in the Smyrna Business Park last spring.
Price’s slate of 25 brews might have something to do with that. Blue Earl boasts the second-highest rating among Delaware breweries on the social networking app Untappd – trailing only Dogfish Head.
But Price, a former Bear resident who moved to town in 2003, says Smyrna also is quickly becoming the place to be for small business owners.
“You don’t have a TGIFridays, Buffalo Wild Wings or Bob Evans here,” he said. “In Smyrna, it’s not about corporate growth. It’s about that small-town feel and support for artisan businesses. That’s something you can hang your hat on.”
Blue Earl held a bottle release party Thursday for its Walking Blues IPA, the first of its beers to appear in stores under a recently signed deal with NKS Distributors. About three dozen people ranging in age from their mid-20s to early 60s filled the brewery's bar in a nondescript, town-owned building tucked between Smyrna's public works offices and a Walmart Distribution Center.
Among the revelers was lifelong Smyrna resident and school counselor Jennifer Weisenberger, 37, and her husband Aaron, 41, a Virginia native who works as a firefighter at Dover Air Force Base.
"We live right around the corner and love to support these local businesses," Aaron said. "Every day it seems like there is something new popping up, but it's still got that small town feel."
Jennifer said the new businesses are a welcome change from the less-than-exciting Smyrna she knew growing up.
"As a kid, any time you wanted to go anywhere you went to Dover or Middletown, because there was nothing to do in Smyrna, really," she said. "Now we have places like this and they're actually bringing people from upstate and downstate to our town for a night out."
Newark native Bill Fasano, a park manager at Alapocas Run State Park and an enthusiast of Delaware craft beer, said Smyrna's emphasis on local, independent businesses appeals to how young adults define themselves today.
"I think with both Gen Xers and millennials, they tend to seek out and make cultural connections with things that are local and distinct," he said. "Shopping at Walmart and drinking Coors Light is not so self defining. But if I drink Blue Earl and patronize a local restaurant, that says something about my values. Smyrna is really doing a great job of using that give itself a real sense of place in the minds of those people. "
A team from Abbott’s Grill and Mispillion Brewery, both in Milford, is now preparing to join that mix by opening Brickworks in the Commodore Commons shopping center on U.S. 13.
Initially, Smyrna was not even on the team’s map. They were recruited to town, although it didn’t take much arm twisting, said Kevin Reading of Abbott’s Grill.
“They (Smyrna leaders) want to be a significant town, not just a road sign on the way to the beach,” he said. “I thought getting in here at this time was the smartest thing we could do.”
Dinner and a Show - Chapter 4
Alcohol-making entrepreneurs are not the only business owners looking to capitalize on Smyrna’s upswing.
The Inn at Duck Creek, a tavern and upscale “farm-to-table” restaurant, is slated to open before the end of the year.
Funded in part through a $300,000 grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the town this summer, Donna Ignasz and partner Howard Johnson have spent a year renovating four buildings at Four Corners, the colloquial name given to the intersection of Main and West Commerce streets.
The former barber shop and adjacent storefronts have been transformed into a 76-seat fine dining eatery and 24-seat pub that soon will serve drinks made by Painted Stave, Blue Earl and Harvest Ridge. Across the street from the Inn at Duck Creek is the Drunk’n Baker, a family-owned bakery that opened in April and uses Painted Stave spirits to make alcohol-infused baked goods.
“We’re all in this together so we’re keeping it local,” Ignasz said. “The idea is to feed off of and support each other.”
The new venture is the second restaurant Johnson has launched in Smyrna. He previously ran Odd Fellows Café, a small Main Street eatery with a gourmet twist on standard American cuisine, before selling the business to Chef Willie Sheppard and his business partners in 2014.
Next year, a Texas-style barbecue joint owned by Dave Dettra, the keyboard player for the Philadelphia-area dance band Jellyroll, is slated to open at 19 W. Commerce St., site of the former Crystal Pistol Restaurant & Bar.
“I think Smyrna is about to be very cool,” Ignasz said. “Now you’ll be able to have a nice dinner here, grab a cup of coffee at Odd Fellows, sip a beer at Blue Earl while listening to live blues music or head to a show at the Smyrna Opera House.”
Located a block from Four Corners, the 145-year-old opera house closed down after a devastating fire in 1948 and was essentially idled for decades.
After a five-year, $3.6 million renovation project largely funded by the community, the building re-opened in 2003 as a performing arts center.
“It took off right away,” said Donna Cantillon, president of the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association. “I think people around here were starving for entertainment and something to do right in their backyard.”
In addition to hosting a children’s and adult theater troupe, instrument lessons, school choirs and, of course, OperaDelaware, the venue also recently partnered with Wilmington-based Gable Music Ventures, the booking agent for World Café Live at The Queen.
Gable Music ventured south in 2014 to help organize the first Smyrna At Night event, a mini-festival that piggybacked on the Firefly Music Festival in Dover. Planned in just six weeks, the one-night event featured 14 bands at Painted Stave, Sheridan’s, the opera house and an outdoor stage at town hall.
“About 2,000 people came out to support local, original music,” said Gable Music co-founder Jeremy Hebbel. “That’s unheard of, even in Wilmington.”
The only complaint Hebbel got from local residents was a demand for more country music.
“Smyrna is only 40 minutes south, but there is a big divide in terms of music preference,” he said. “So we’ve made a real effort to embrace and build the local music scene, something musicians down there haven’t had in a long time.”
A country-themed Smyrna At Night was held in late 2014, followed a branded event in March and a third festival in June. The next Smyrna At Night event is planned for June 10, 2016, with additional programming throughout the year.
“In my opinion, Smyrna is cool,” Hebbel said. “It’s just something I think most people outside of town have yet to realize.”
A Community of Cool - Chapter 5
Eleven years after opening the doors to Sheridan’s Irish Pub, the owners say Smryna’s burgeoning music scene, new restaurants and booming drink makers are only adding to their business.
“They’re all giving people more and more reasons to come to town,” Shirley Sheridan said. “That’s not competition. That’s community.”
The Sheridans regularly invite Painted Stave and Blue Earl owners over to show off their wares. The couple also features the locally made spirits and brews at their bar.
At the same time, the pub has established a symbiotic relationship with the opera house and some of the new restaurants in town.
“People have dinner here and then go to a show or vice versa,” Shirley said. “And we’re packed when festival is here. It’s really all starting to come together for little Smyrna.”
Mayor Joanne Masten, a lifelong resident, said she wants to be sure Smyrna’s new character mixes with, rather than replaces, the town’s old identity.
“I’m passionate about bringing the right businesses in, but I never want us to forget our history,” she said. “That’s why I’m really proud these new things are happening in the downtown historic district and really blending with the opera house and places like the Smyrna Museum and Historic Belmont Hall.”
King said she's thrilled to have the new businesses in town.
"Now when someone says, 'Let's go out for happy hour," you can stay local and don't have to drive to Wilmington or an Applebee's in Dover anymore," she said. "I just hope it doesn't get too crowded."
Wallace said the growing excitement in Smyrna is even giving her second thoughts about coming back to her hometown.
“I never thought I would move back before, but if the right opportunity came I would,” she said. “There’s a lot of benefit to it now.”
Her sister, Kristi Schultz, a math specialist at North Elementary School, said she still is not fully accustomed to the town’s growth, but she’s hopeful Smryna’s new entertainment scene will make a change for the better.
“I’m always amazed when I go places and see people I don’t know, especially since I grew up here and teach here,” she said. “But now that there are things to do maybe it will help bring back that small-town feel, because people who frequent those places see each other and get to know each other.”
For now, she said, the recent changes are at least making the town more fun.
“When you grow up in Smyrna there’s nothing to do and it’s even worse when you’re in your 20s,” she said with a laugh. “But to a 20-something today, it’s definitely much cooler than it used to be”
Inn at Duck Creek restaurant set to open this month After over one year of dedication and work, the Inn at Duck Creek will soon be open to visitors
Reprinted from the Smyrna-Clayton Sun-Times - Dec. 17, 2015
After over one year of dedication and work, the Inn at Duck Creek will soon be open to visitors to the downtown Smyrna area, according to its owners Donna Ignasz and Howard Johnson.
The new upscale restaurant located at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 North Main Street in Smyrna combines several historical buildings to create six dining rooms seating about 12 to 20 people each, a tavern, a kitchen and office space.
Farm-to-table meals will be featured, expecting to bring in $20 to $30 per plate, according to the owners.
USDA staff visits Clayton, Smyrna renovated buildings Military academy, Inn at Duck Creek, Heron Run Apartments among sites visited
Reprinted from the Smyrna-Clayton Sun-Times - Nov. 6, 2015
Newly renovated buildings in Smyrna and Clayton were visited Thursday, Nov. 5 by United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Bill McGowan and employees from Washington, D.C.
With hopes of seeing "projects in Delaware that have received the support of USDA Rural Development programs," the group stopped at the new First State Military Academy in Clayton, The Inn at Duck Creek and Heron Run Apartments, both in Smyrna.
Employees heard an overview of the work provided in the Clayton and Smyrna communities over the last decade.
"USDA Rural Development offers more than 40 programs that help improve the quality of life and increase economic opportunity in rural America," according to the press release. "It is not often that Washington, D.C. USDA staff get to see the impact that Rural Development programs have on the rural citizens and communities that are served."
The Inn at Duck Creek is the New Place for Fine Dining A new, farm-to-fork restaurant brings upscale dining to downtown
Reprinted from DelawareToday - Aug, 2015
For Howard Johnson, opening Odd Fellows Café in Smyrna in 2012 was a stepping stone to a much bigger project several blocks away at the corner of North Main and East Commerce streets—the Inn at Duck Creek, an upscale, farm-to-fork restaurant and tavern expected to open in mid-August. But Johnson soon realized the restoration of the former Victorian and Federal-style buildings, owned by businessman Ed Ide, was “larger and more involved than I thought.” He brought on business partner Donna Ignasz, who had experience in finance and the hospitality industry. The duo is striving to create a restaurant that will become a destination for those outside the area.
They’ve hired a chef, Christopher Rauber, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, who has “a lot of passion,” Ignasz says. Expect local farms and businesses like Harvest Ridge Winery, Painted Stave Distilling and the new Blue Earl Brewing Company to be featured on a menu that will showcase American food with a sophisticated twist, Johnson says. Small, intimate dining rooms—seating 70 at cloth-covered tables on two levels—have plank floors, fireplaces and exposed brick to add to the charm. The 30-seat tavern will offer more casual fare like flatbreads. A proponent of Smyrna’s renaissance, Johnson says, “The focus is to bring food, customer service and atmosphere to downtown.”
Upscale Dining Awakens Smyrna The next stop in fine dining? The Inn at Duck Creek.
Reprinted from DelawareToday - Aug. 2015
The Inn at Duck Creek, an upscale, farm-to-fork restaurant and tavern, is expected to open in mid-August in the Kent County town. It’s been a labor of love for business partners Howard Johnson and Donna Ignasz, who have been renovating the stately Victorian and Federal-style buildings at the corner of North Main and East Commerce streets for more than a year.
They already have a chef in place—Christopher Rauber, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. Expect local farms and businesses like Harvest Ridge Winery, Painted Stave Distilling and the new Blue Earl Brewing Company to be featured on a menu that will showcase American food with a sophisticated twist (like the chef’s shrimp dish shown at left). Read more in the August issue of Delaware Today.
For its future, Smyrna turns to its past
Reprinted from delawareonline - April 15, 2015
SMYRNA – Look beyond the dust, scuffed wooden floors, peeling paint, stacked lumber and messy debris of a site under construction, Donna Ignasz says.
The Inn at Duck Creek is not yet ready to open as a tavern and upscale "farm-to-table" restaurant, but its work-in-progress potential isn't difficult to imagine.
Taking visitors on a tour of three 18th-century buildings at East Commerce and North Main streets, an intersection known as Smyrna's Four Corners, Ignasz shows off the good bones – the six fireplaces, arched church windows and various rooms of what eventually will become one adjoining 4,000-square-foot space.
"We're keeping the character of the building," Ignasz says.
Co-owner Donna Ignasz stands in the second-floor dining area of a new farm-to-table restaurant and tavern in Smyrna that she will be calling the Inn at Duck Creek. (Photo: JENNIFER CORBETT/THE NEWS JOURNAL)
The Inn at Duck Creek is part of the continuing transformation of Smyrna's historical district. The area, off U.S. 13, has been somewhat forgotten by travelers ever since Del. 1 opened in stages from 1991 to 2003 to help relieve beach traffic.
Smyrna officials have said activity in its once thriving downtown – shipbuilding had been a prominent business after the town was settled before the American Revolution – began dwindling with the construction of the now-defunct Blue Hen Mall in 1968 and later, the Dover Mall in 1982.
But Ignasz is hoping the small town's rich historic appeal, strategic location and recent revitalization efforts will help make the Inn at Duck Creek a destination restaurant.
The bottom floor, once an antique shop and, before that, Vance's Barber Shop for nearly five decades, will house the tavern, she says.
Ignasz hopes guests soon will eat a crabcake slider or an "adult" grilled cheese there. She can envision them resting elbows at the 12-stool bar and having a glass of wine from nearby Harvest Ridge Winery in Marydel, or maybe a beer from the coming-soon Blue Earl Brewing Co. or perhaps a cocktail made with one of the spirits produced by Painted Stave, the distillery just down the street.
Lunch and dinner, with dishes like braised pork belly and butter-poached lobster, will be served in other rooms on floors most recently shooed of birds.
And an upstairs room, with a view of several downtown businesses including the recently opened Drunk'n Baker, across the street, eventually will become a place to have a soothing cup of tea. Another room could be a place to hear live music.
Major restorations have been ongoing since the restaurant project was announced last summer. Ignasz, who will run Duck Creek Hospitality Group with partner Howard Johnson, says the hoped-for spring opening for the Inn at Duck Creek now looks like it will likely be June or possibly even July.
"Downtown Smyrna is going to be, like, wow," says Town Manager David S. Hugg. "It's clearly going through a reinvention. It's almost going to be a metamorphosis from a sleepy corner to a rediscovery. It's one of Delaware's best-kept secrets. You just want to put up a sign and tell people to get off Route 1."
The buildings which will house the 76-seat restaurant and 24-seat tavern – 2, 4, 6 and 8 N. Main St. – are owned by Edward H. Ide, who runs i3a, a Smyrna engineering and construction management firm. Ide has purchased and rehabbed several historic buildings in the area. The Inn at Duck Creek is located in one of the major thoroughfares of Smyrna known as Four Corners. Before that, it was called Duck Creek Crossroads. (Duck Creek also serves as the dividing line between New Castle and Kent counties.)
The town's boundaries were one-fourth of a mile in each direction of the four corners. In 1857, the town limits were extended another one-fourth mile in each direction, making Smyrna 1 square mile.
Smyrna, ripe for a comeback, has been helped along by the addition of new food and drinking establishments in recent years. Sheridan's Irish Pub, run by the same family that once ran Newark's A Piece of Ireland, has operated the West Commerce Street eatery since 2004.
Businesses like the Odd Fellows Cafe on South Main Street, which opened in 2012, and Painted Stave, the distillery in the Old Smyrna Theatre on West Commerce Street, also renovated by Ide, have increased the town's profile.
In January, Smyrna welcomed the LITS (Love Is The Sweetest) Candy Boutique on West Commerce Street, which sells hard-to-find sweets from the 1950s and 1960s.
Earlier this month, the Drunk'n Baker, featuring alcohol-infused baked goods, opened in a historic building renovated by Ide at the corner of North Main and East Commerce streets.
Coming soon to Smyrna is the state's seventh brewery, Blue Earl Brewing Co., in a business park off Del. 300, and a family-run Texas barbecue-style eatery on West Commerce Street.
Janet Straughn Forrest, who grew up in the Townsend area and recently moved back to Delaware after living in New Jersey for 25 years, says she and her daughter Breanne Blair are surprised at the reception they've received since opening the Drunk'n Baker on April 3.
"It's going really good. It's been almost overwhelming. For a while, we couldn't keep up," says Forrest, who said the 1 N. Main St. shop nearly sold out of baked goods shortly after opening. "We were trying to bake as fast as we could."
Forrest, a Dover High School graduate, says she loves having a business in Smyrna, especially in a building dating back to at least 1806. "I just love downtowns, and I love Main Streets."
Town manager Hugg says there about 500 historic buildings in Smyrna and the town has retained much of its character. "It's a wonderful mix of Colonial era and Victoria era," he says.
Ignasz, a former Wilmington resident who has worked in restaurants and in finance, believes in Smyrna's potential. She and Johnson, who ran the Odd Fellows Cafe until selling it in 2014, are both Smyrna residents.
They are confident once restorations are complete, the Inn at Duck Creek will attract some of Smyrna's 11,000 residents as well as visitors. The town is about 10 miles from Middletown, about 12 miles north of Dover and 30 miles south of the major business centers of Newark and Wilmington.
The facade of what will be the entrance of the Inn at Duck Creek tavern, known as the Phillips building, has changed little from 1906 Four Corners postcards that are part of the Delaware Public Archives.
The building's turret remains, though it was replaced by a handcrafted copper one in January. The building, dating back to 1763, also still has many Victorian-era decorative exterior structures such as a wrought iron railings and finials.
Still, the interior needs much more than a few coats of paint. Some buildings have long been vacant. Sinks that remained from a former beauty shop had to be ripped out, and plans are in place to create new doorways. A new kitchen has to be built from scratch, and restrooms need to be revamped.
The tavern will be housed in what many might remember as the barbershop operated by Vance Cole, who opened the business when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. He ran it for about 50 years.
Ignasz will be running the tavern and plans to pay homage to Cole in some way – perhaps putting a barber chair in the bar area or hanging vintage photographs.
The partners have hired a New Jersey chef who they say can execute both casual and fine-dining cuisine. The tavern will have a separate menu from the restaurant and will offer burgers and sandwiches with house-cut fries.
The restaurant side, to be run by Johnson, who has worked in the hospitality business for more than 15 years, will have dishes such as shrimp and grits, tuna tartar, fried oysters and pan-roasted rib-eye. Desserts will include a Southern-style bread pudding that Johnson was well-known for at the Odd Fellows Cafe and other sweet endings like hazelnut cappuccino pot de crème and campfire s'mores. Hugg says he thinks visitors will be surprised at Smyrna's changing face. "They might not realize how neat this town is. It's kind of subtle if you haven't paid attention, but when you look around, you'll be amazed."
FOLLOW UP: INN AT DUCK CREEK
Reprinted from the Smyrna-Clayton Sun-Times - Jan. 22, 2015
Work is underway at the corner of North Main Street and East Commerce Street and a renovation is being done to the Koehler and Peterson buildings for an upscale dining restaurant that will open in spring 2015.
The project was announced in late summer last year while a Kickstarter Campaign was started in September in an attempt to raise $20,000 for the project to help start the process of renovating the building and open the business. The campaign concluded on Oct. 10, but the $20,000 wasn’t raised which meant The Inn at Duck Creek owners Howard Johnson and Donna Ignasz would have to start over again.
WHAT’S NEW Johnson and Ignasz as well as local businessman Ed Ide have been busy moving forward with The Inn at Duck Creek project. Ide, a construction manager, is renovating the properties for the restaurant as well as the Harrington Building across the street that will eventually be a bakery.
Johnson said Ide’s business – i3a – has installed a beautiful, copper roof on the turret of the tavern portion of the buildings and are currently renovating the roof. The masons have rebuilt the chimneys that collapsed several years ago. The designs for the interior are finished for the restaurant and the tavern.
Moreover, an executive chef has been secured from New Jersey and a committee has been formed to plan the Grand Opening Charity Gala, which will benefit the Smyrna Opera House and Duck Creek Historical Society.
On top of working towards opening in mid-May, Ignasz said the duo just finished filming the new video for the second Kickstarter Campaign. This time around it was shot by a professional videographer – Curious Iris – who is also a Smyrna resident. Ignasz expects the video for the campaign to go live the first week of February.
The goal the first time around was $20,000, and while the amount for the campaign isn’t set in stone yet, the two once again hope to raise $20,000. Prizes will be the same as last time including mugs and shirts, but this time around new prizes have been added in like a private cooking class. The campaign will run longer this time with an end date of March 31.
“We want it to run longer this time to give people the chance to take their time and choose the best choice for them, and also to allow us a bit longer to be able to reach the goal,” Ignasz said.
The campaign is being done again based on the budget of the project and the amount of surprises Ignasz and Johnson face with the restoration. They’re hoping the kickstarter funds will help add something special to the restaurant and tavern like antique signage, landscaping and special touches.
“We want to be able to present these landmark and historically rich buildings to not only the town of Smyrna, but to visitors from all over the country,” Ignasz said. “We are asking our community to help take us the extra mile, while at the same time, giving them back a little piece of the project in appreciation of their support.”
While the initial Kickstarter Campaign wasn’t exactly a success, the business has received a lot of support in Smyrna and Kent County as a whole. From messages of support on social media to requests for reservations for large events, the love for The Inn at Duck Creek is felt.
“This project is not just about us; it’s about Smyrna and its deep right history,” Johnson said. “Everywhere we go, we are asked when we are going to open and told that people cannot wait to experience what we will be offering. We are posting construction updates as they occur.”