Opening one new restaurant is a daunting experience. So when Paul Bires decided to open three food establishments within months of each other, it seemed downright ambitious. But the former Elyria State Store proprietor’s concept is working.

Bires envisioned transforming the former location of Amherst Hardware — a building that had been in foreclosure — into a dining destination. Two banks had been in that space before the hardware store, but never a restaurant. That meant that creating a restaurant required a total build-out, which was not an easy task.

But Bires approached things step by step.

First, he opened a banquet hall in September 2011. The facility is large enough to accommodate about 100 people, making it ideal for engagement parties, small wedding receptions or anniversary parties. “It’s perfect for those type of events,” Bires explains. “It’s unique. We brought back the character of the building and introduced leather chairs. It works.”

Three months later, he and partner Dave Hansing, owner of Stubby’s in Elyria, opened Stubby’s Pub & Grub, the first of the complex’s two restaurants. Stubby’s is a 90-seat, casual restaurant with a menu that includes pulled pork, Chef John Cafarelli’s specialty glazed donut burger and a wine, beer and cocktail list with something for everyone.

In February 2012, the duo opened Cork’s Wine Bar and Bistro, an 80-seat, casually upscale restaurant featuring creative American cuisine. Appetizers include jambalaya balls with andouille sausage; Creole vegetables; rice and cheese breaded, fried and served over marinara sauce; and wild mushroom strudel with goat cheese and cabernet wrapped in phyllo dough. Entrees range from pan-roasted chicken to pinot-braised pork belly to the fresh catch of the day.

“We wanted to create the kind of restaurants that we look for when we go on vacation,” says Bires. “The hole-in-the-wall, independent places that you find. Those are the places you remember.”

He and Hansing managed to create three distinct concepts that work independently as well as collectively. Stubby’s and Cork’s are located within 20 feet of one another, separated by the kitchen.

In fact, if a guest at Cork’s wants an item from Stubby’s, he can order it. Bires thinks of the menus as crossover. “One week after we opened the wine bar we were a restaurant. That’s what the customers wanted. We let our customers lead us to what we should be.”

That outlook includes creating the right atmosphere. Bires has opened two patios to let guests soak up the summer warmth. Cork’s has a patio inside, while Stubby’s has a patio on Main Street featuring the canvas awnings used on the original building.

“There was a need for restaurants like this in Lorain County,” says Bires. “I’m just happy that we’re able to do this.”

209 S. Main St.,

Stubby’s is open:
11 a.m.-midnight
Friday and Saturday
11-1 a.m.
Cork’s is open:
4-10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday
4-11 p.m.
Reservations for both restaurants may be made by calling