LEWISBURG - The Spring arrived in the dead of winter.
The vegetarian restaurant, which opened Jan. 2, is already winning fans in "America's Coolest Small Town," even among devoted omnivores.
The building sits just outside downtown Lewisburg and has long been a landmark for local residents. It previously was the Fort Savannah Motel, a joint known more for its rough-and-tumble customers than its service or food.
The new owners have stripped away that bad reputation, along with pretty much everything else in the building.
Skylights and big windows provide lots of natural light. There's a new bar and stage, built with reclaimed wood from an old bowling alley. The tables are made of locally-sourced cherry wood. Pocahontas County artist Molly Must contributed two large murals along the back wall.
The kitchen is filled with the typical stainless steel appliances, but also a newly built stone pizza oven.
The Spring is open for dinner on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights from 5 to 9 p.m., and is open all day Saturday from 8 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m. Spokeswoman Laura Bozzi said the restaurant will eventually be open daily for lunch.
The menu features all fresh, organic ingredients like Chef Al Pettijohn's butternut squash gratin and cauliflower ragu.
Those vegetables now come from farms outside West Virginia, but The Spring eventually plans to feature locally-grown produce.
Bozzi is trying to develop arrangements with nearby farms, but it could be a while before those ingredients wind up on dinner plates.
"It's all relationship building," she said. "They're taking a risk to plant for us, and we're making an investment in them."
It's difficult to operate a truly "farm-to-table" restaurant anywhere, but Bozzi said it's especially difficult in West Virginia.
"With farmers, they're small scale here. You can't go to one farm and get everything," she said.
If all goes according to plan, The Spring will eventually become much more than a restaurant, however.