When you hear the name Meadowlark, does a sweet little, Snow-White-esque chirping bird come to mind? Well fun fact—did you know this yellow-breasted, song bird is the state bird of Kansas? Did you also know that a very chic restaurant located on Far Hills Avenue dons this same name? The owner of the restaurant, Wiley as she likes to be called, is originally from Kansas, and felt this name was just perfect for her restaurant (learn more about Wiley from her 10 ? interview). She originally opened Meadowlark in September of 2004 on Miamisburg-Centerville Road, but a year ago this May, they made the move to a larger, more central location at 5531 Far Hills Avenue. Meadowlark was able to take this step to a better location and bring in more clientele because of the hard work of Wiley and her best friend, Liz. After hearing the story of Meadowlark’s development, I was truly inspired by Wiley’s entrepreneur smarts.
This will be my last article for DaytonMostMetro, and when my amazing editor, Lisa, suggested that I should focus this article on the entrepreneurship aspect of a restaurant, I was a little worried. At the University of Dayton, I don’t study business. I have some general ideas of the business world, but I did not feel confident enough, at first, to tackle this task. So after much research, I finally met with Wiley to discuss how she built her restaurant from scratch. Hearing the entire story was truly moving, but before I jump to the details of this journey, I must thank Lisa. Because of this article, I was pushed past my comfort zone. By her pushing me to achieve more through this experience, I have gained so much knowledge and a different angle on the restaurant business. So thank you, Lisa. You have been the best editor I could have hoped for. I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity to learn so much.
This article has enlightened me to how many small details go into building a dream from nothing. Wiley engineered the menu, the design, and the working dynamics of Meadowlark, which all contribute to the success of the restaurant, today. During our interview, she explained how she’s mostly responsible, but it is also developed through collaboration. One of the neatest things Wiley touched on was her sincere interest in her employees’ ideas. She really emphasized how she loves letting the staff have input: “we’re always trying to improve.” And one of the ways they accomplish this is in their staff meetings, where staff members are fully involved in the discussion.
Meadowlark’s menu is the same way: the eats really embody who Wiley is, but through the staff’s group effort, they have continually improved upon their selection. “It’s really a reflection of my personal style. The menu is the whole point of having your own restaurant,” explained Wiley. She’s a cook by trade, having first developed her culinary interests when she was given free range to make dinner as a child. Her mother worked, so her aunt helped her in the kitchen and allowed her to develop her own culinary skills. “It really wasn’t a thing to go to culinary school,” she pointed out, but some might even say her cuisine surpasses those who did attend school.
Wiley describes the design of Meadowlark’s new location as having “just evolved.” She didn’t hire a designer, but rather trusted her own instincts. They kept the same colors of the old location “for continuity,” including an array of red, yellow, and green. With some luck, they tore down the dark-colored dry wall to find a beautiful brick wall that is still exposed today. With the new space, they were also able to add a bar, which is illuminated in a beautiful, eye-popping blue. Wiley made sure to tackle the simple issues, such as eliminating the noise problems by buying rubber flooring that looks wooden. (I would have never known if she had not enlightened me to this fact! It looks so real.) With the addition of a couple of rustic doors and a few culinary touches (like frying pan lights!), the design was unique and complete.
Due to her success in the restaurant business, Wiley was able to offer some insightful advice. First off, she really emphasized how it takes commitment to make the best food, environment, and service possible. As an entrepreneur, she made this dream into a reality, but not without a lot of time and effort. Wiley, herself, is one of the best examples of her second piece of advice: “strive to always improve.” Through her commitment to hearing what others have to say, Meadowlark has grown tremendously, incorporating different interests of their employees, as well as the tastes of their customers. Wiley’s last two pieces of advice apply to entrepreneurship, but also to life in general: “be generous and be nice, and support things you care about.” Once more, Wiley provides a stellar example through her restaurant. Meadowlark helps support public radio and local publications, and any donation request of the restaurant receives a gift. While Meadowlark cares for the community, it is obvious that Wiley cares for this restaurant, her dream-made-reality. With a lot of care, effort, and commitment on Wiley’s part, Meadowlark has become a success.
I would even deem the working dynamic of her staff as unique and truly special. Through our interview, I could really tell she cared about her staff members. She frankly stated, “I’m not looking to create an empire, just a good work environment.” She emphasized how it’s truly important to her that her staff and customers want to come to Meadowlark every day. “It’s important to create more opportunities for them, and it’s fun to figure out something new.” Recently, Wiley helped incorporate their floor manager’s interest in beer into their bar menu; “it keeps me on my toes and them invested in their job.” Their next project? Wiley’s best friend, Liz, is really interested in pizza. Meadowlark actually helped send her to pizza school! So to test out the success of these pizzas with their customers, they have begun to open Meadowlark on Monday nights as a pizzeria! Wiley’s plan is to test this for three to four months through the summer and occasionally serve a couple as a lunch special, in order to gather some feedback from their customers. Who knows—maybe another restaurant will be born from Wiley’s will to help a best friend.
Thank you—Wiley, for this truly educational interview; Lisa, for providing this learning experience; and for all you Daytonians whom have read my articles this past school year. It has been a pleasure writing for you all.
This is Mariah Douglas, signing off.
5531 Far Hills Avenue
Dayton, OH 45429
Monday: 5PM-9PM (Pizza time!)
Friday-Saturday: 11:30 AM-10PM