Imagine 15,000 square feet of gleaming marble and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows — abandoned for more than two decades in the heart of downtown Morristown.
And an owner of five fine dining restaurants in New York City — all of which earned three stars from The New York Times and a total of five Michelin Stars — who suddenly closed up shop and left in 2011.
Some would call them the perfect pairing.
When famed restaurateur Chris Cannon visited the Vail Mansion in Morristown some four years ago, the Italian palazzo-like estate (built for AT&T executive Theodore Vail during World War I) had sat empty on South Street for 23 years.
Cannon immediately saw the historic landmark’s potential.
“I walked in and said it was perfect for a restaurant,” he said.
His 36 years in the business running New York City hot spots Judson Grill, L’Impero, Marea, Alto and Convivio have no doubt helped him build a checklist of requirements the spot easily met:
¾ Lower-than-Manhattan rent of $20,000 a month would allow him to charge lower-than-Manhattan prices.
¾ A location next to the 1,300-seat Mayo Performing Arts Center in a demographically wealthy area — 10 minutes from the Mall at Short Hills and near seven Fortune 500 companies — would make for ideal patronage.
¾ A vibrant downtown area in Morristown, which is only growing due to the residential development over the last 10 years.
So Cannon — who lives in Mountain Lakes with his wife and three children — took on the challenge of securing a certificate of occupancy and concession agreement for the redevelopment project to invest three years of his time (and, according to The New York Times, nearly $5 million) into creating Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen.