The staff talks construction, gentrification and building up Olde Towne East

When you walk in the new Olde Oak restaurant and bar at the corner of Parsons Avenue and East Oak Street, you'll immediately notice the massive mural covering nearly all of the wall space. Created by local artist Paul Giovis, the painting features women in cowboy hats and detailed desert imagery. That Southwestern theme is utilized elsewhere, with decor including succulents and steer horns, and a menu featuring items from Street Corn Esquites to Arepas.

But it's the patrons that make the Olde Towne East establishment special.

“This neighborhood is vibrant and it's such a cultural mix … and you're seeing that come through the door,” said bartender David Gale. “We have older couples that have lived over on Garfield [Avenue] their entire lives, and then there's the new people that have recently moved to Columbus and they like the proximity to Downtown.”

Neighborhood acceptance does not come immediately, as Olde Oak owner Carolyn Maloney learned when she opened her first business on Parsons Avenue, 39 Below Frozen Yogurt, about five years ago.

“When … this little, blonde, 29-year-old girl was opening a frozen yogurt shop here, it sure looks like gentrification. So I had to work really hard to make the neighborhood understand that I'm hiring from within the neighborhood,” Maloney said. “Also, we're at a price point that's accessible. … We're not working against [it], we're building up the neighborhood.”

She noticed she was making an impact when customers were crossing the street and walking over a plank to visit the shop during the cumbersome, ongoing construction on Parsons Avenue that started last spring.

“It's been really tough on the small businesses,” she said. And the Olde Oak will have to wait until the construction wraps up next year to serve lunch and brunch. However, patrons can enjoy a special Saturday happy hour (until 7 p.m.) through the construction. (Happy hour is also offered Monday through Friday, 4-7 p.m., and all day Sunday.)

“Having a great menu makes my job easy. And great drinks,” Gale said. “We've got PBR for the strongholds. We also have Hilltop [Lager] for the hipsters.”

There's also a cocktail menu that includes a grapefruit-based Bourbon Punch ($9) and a take on a champagne float called 40 Paces ($10) — both utilizing locally made spirits.

Once the bar acquires an additional terminal, installs another fryer and gathers signage, Maloney and team will throw a party to officially celebrate opening back in late November.

“It's been very well-received,” Gale said. “Sometimes we open the door at 4 p.m. and we're instantly busy. That's impressive for not having a grand opening yet.”