Tracking down Travis Mohlenbrink these days can be a little tough. The Peoria restaurateur keeps himself plenty busy with Cracked Pepper’s two locations, its catering business, plus Salt and Sugar.

As if that wasn’t enough, he has been working behind the scenes over the past two years to launch The Warehouse on State, a full-service events and catering facility, and an adjoining restaurant called Thyme Kitchen and Craft Beer.

With renovations to the old Sealtest Building at the corner of Washington and State in downtown Peoria nearly complete, PEN caught up with Travis and got an inside look at the two spaces before the formal grand opening.

The Warehouse On State

SealtestHow long had you been planning on opening an events and catering facility?
I wanted to open an event space for about five years. I wanted a unique space that could accommodate seating for around 300 hundred people. Luck would have it, a couple years back this space became available and it was just what I was looking for.

Was there a gap in this market in Peoria to be filled?
I always felt once people are searching to host events over 200 people the choices become limited. I wanted to be able to give another choice to those clients in a unique atmosphere such as the old warehouse I have revitalized.

The Warehouse on StateDid the project end up staying on budget?
I am not sure any projects I have done stayed on budget. As with any old buildings, to bring them up to today’s building code has its challenges. We did have to alter entrances and exits along with elevations to make this project work. The good news is, these old buildings were built very solid, and now with the updates we have made we should have a space that will last a long time.

What are the offerings and amenities of the space?
The space will be able to host events from 50 to 350 people. We have full audio and visual built into the space, along with over two dozen special LED down-lights that can completely change the color of the room to whatever the client would like.

We will be able to host everything from birthdays and bar mitzvahs to weddings and non-for profit events. A full food service, buffets, and full bar capabilities are available. Cracked Pepper Catering will supply all of these amenities for our guests.

Inside The Warehouse on StateHas the growth of Cracked Pepper, Salt, and Sugar contributed to the demand and success on the catering side of your business?
Having all the different restaurant locations has definitely helped our catering business. We get people inquiring every day through the restaurants about where they can get catering.

It just so happens our Executive Chef at Cracked Pepper, Vince Swanson, puts together all the menus for the restaurants. This works to our advantage when someone requests certain menu items from the different restaurants to be catered at their event.

What does success look like for The Warehouse On State?
I truly feel as the Warehouse District grows, The Warehouse on State will also grow. Having a parking lot so close to the downtown area and being surrounded by all the great restaurants and bars along with the riverfront entertainment makes our space the perfect spot to spend an evening.

How can someone book the space or find out more information?
To inquire about available dates or to tour the space you can call Marla or Mykenzie at (309) 687-0039. Like our Facebook page to find out more and to see updates.


Thyme Kitchen & Craft Beer

Thyme_insideWhat has the anticipation been like for you with opening Thyme?
This restaurant has taken quite some time to develop. The one good thing about the delay, is that it has allowed us to tweak the menu multiple times, so we are opening with the best menu we have ever put together for any of our restaurants.

I am very excited but also nervous about this project. I hope everyone feels the way I do when I walk into the space, and will become regular customers for us. I know once they have the food they will not be disappointed.

Thyme_deerWhat were your inspirations for the restaurant?
I wanted to do a restaurant with a bar feel for quite a while. I think people want a place where they can go and relax, that also has awesome food and unique drink choices. This restaurant will deliver on that. There is a place in Miami called Swine that has influenced me on this project.

Thyme_tapObviously, there were some delays and an old building like the Sealtest presents some challenges, but why did you have your heart set on downtown when you could have built new for cheaper elsewhere?
This project has been long and difficult, but in the end I foresee it being very rewarding. I don’t think a restaurant like this or the event center would fit in next to chain restaurants. When people see the space, I think that they will understand that new construction would not have fit what we are trying to accomplish with the feel of both of these projects.Thyme_barAre you done with new projects for a while?
I would like to say I am done for a while, however, I am already working on a couple of other things that people will probably hear about some time this summer.  I will say though that I will not take on this big of a project for quite some time. The things I’m working on next are on a much smaller scale.

Thyme_liquorDo you find any challenges with staffing new restaurants and getting employees up to speed?
It is always hard to find employees in our business. We rely on good employees bringing in other good employees. The great thing now, due to our success with other restaurants, is we don’t have to seek out as many people as we used to.

With this project in particular, we have staffed the whole restaurant with people coming to us knowing we are opening soon. We started training our staff last week, and will continue to train until we open. There is a lot to learn with the bar program and food menu at this restaurant. We want to make sure we are known for the best service in central Illinois.

Thyme_jarsIs there a favorite item on the Thyme menu that you can tell us about?
I am going to give the answer that you probably expect. Everything on this new menu is unbelievable! All of my other restaurants have menus that were put together over a six month to a year process. I know for a fact that the time spent on this, is longer than most restaurants spend on menu development.

We have literally spent two years tweaking every item on this menu, using the freshest products to develop delicious recipes. I cannot wait for people to try this menu. Thyme will be the crown jewel of the places I own.

Thyme_freezerWhere can we find Thyme online and will there also be online ordering available?
The exact opening date will be announced on our Facebook page. We will also be taking our first reservations once we announce our opening date, later this week. You can call ahead with orders to pick-up but we will not offer online ordering at this time.

To make a reservation, please call (309) 713-2619. Our website will be live by the end of the week as well.

Thyme Chandelier