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Japanese hibachi-style restaurant opening on East End

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Another eyesore on Charleston's East End has been renovated with plans of opening to the public next week, and the business owner isn't stopping there.

Carina Kwok, owner of Main Kwong on Washington Street East, will open Umami, a Japanese-style hibachi, next door to her existing business at 10 a.m. Monday, said Ric Cavender, East End Main Street executive director.

Kwok and her partners also plan to open a frozen yogurt store in the space immediately east of Main Kwong, Cavender said.

Cavender made the announcements Wednesday at a Charleston Urban Renewal Authority meeting.

"This is a very, very exciting project," he said during the meeting.

The restaurant is in the former Trading Post pawnshop, which has sat vacant for about six years.

The large mural on the building's west side has been removed, and Cavender said the newly renovated space would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

"This will really fit well into what's going on in the East End," he said.

He expects the yogurt store could open by January "if everything goes smooth."

"We're really proud to have Carina (Kwok) and her partners operating in the East End," Cavender said. 

In other news, the state Division of Highways will seek bids for construction of the new District 1 headquarters along Smith Street in the East End by the end of the year.

District General Manager John McBrayer said the DOH plans to replace its aging building on Smith Street. It was supposed to house the district headquarters on a temporary basis, he said.

The building is 25 to 30 years old and has outlived its usefulness, McBrayer said.

"This is long overdue," he said.

The DOH also is considering renovations at the old State Road Commission building on Smith Street. The two projects together will house 100 to 150 employees, McBrayer said. 

A new equipment storage building is to be built on Smith Street near Appalachian Power Park.

"We're building a whole campus there," McBrayer said. "It's going to be a big project."

Brayer did not have numbers concerning project costs. Division of Highways spokesman Brent Walker also was unsure how much the entire project would cost.

That is because all the rights of way and needed property have not been acquired.

However, construction of the new District 1 headquarters will cost about $3 million, Walker said. 

In yet another East End development, Casto Technical, a heating, ventilation and cooling supplier, is moving its warehouse facility from the corner of Leon Sullivan Way and Smith Street to the West Side.

The company will move its warehouse to the Rex Building on Bigley Avenue, said Aric Margolis, owner of Aric Margolis Architecture and architect for the project.

That will open up about 4,000 square feet of space in the East End building for the company to expand its office space, he said. The company will add windows to the four-story structure, he said. 

The parking lot next to the Casto Technical Building will be expanded to accommodate one more row of automobiles, Margolis said.

The company must renovate the Rex Building before the warehouse operations can be moved.

"That portion of the project will probably take about 60 days," he said.

The interior renovations will be done in stages. The bulk of the project should be completed by mid-summer, Margolis said. The company is putting together cost estimates for the project.

Authority board members also heard from West Side Main Street representatives during the meeting.

President Josie Counts said West Side Main Street was attempting to improve its relationships with businesses and residents in the district.

The agency also plans to update its mission and goals, she said.

Authority Executive Director Jim Edwards gave board members an update on construction near the corner of Quarrier and Summers streets in downtown Charleston.

Ann Saville, owner of Taylor Books on Capitol Street, plans to open a microbrewery at the site. Construction is proceeding well, he said. 

"I believe she is wanting to be open by April," Edwards said.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at 



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