Highland Square Café is moving into the previous Cobblestone Café spot, which closed in August last year after being a staple in the community for 17 years.
Highland Plaza, located at 654 Highlands Ave. in Fort Thomas, came under new ownership on Jan. 6, and the new owners made it a top priority to fill the vacancy of the anchor tenant in the plaza.
According to Highland Square Café owner Joe Malje, the restaurant will be a fast-casual spot serving hot and cold sandwiches, soups, salads and chili. He said the plan is to open in April. Malje said they will not serve breakfast but will be open for lunch and dinner.
Malje is familiar with the restaurant world. He also owns Washington Square Café in Burlington, which he bought in 2021. Previously, he worked in the corporate world with Darden Restaurants for 26 years. He has lived in Burlington for 26 years with his wife, Jeanette Daumeyer, and three kids.
Malje went in on the Highland Square Café property with his business partner Melisa Buechel. Buechel is a Northern Kentucky native who grew up in Fort Thomas and has two daughters with her husband, Steve.
“This place was near and dear to her heart,” Malje said. “When it became available, she asked me to partner with her.”
After 25 years in finance, Buechel is retiring to start this new venture. She said she is excited to see old faces, meet new ones, and serve the Fort Thomas community.
Malje said he grew up watching “Cheers” and that’s how he has always ran his business.
“I wanted to own a restaurant in a community that welcomed small businesses and the people in the community, and you got to know everybody, and Burlington was perfect,” Malje said. “And when I saw that Fort Thomas was available, I knew how tight-knit that community is and how strong schools are, and the culture and community as a whole, and it was so attractive.”
Brent Gilman and Matt Mansfield of Tower Homes acquired Highland Plaza in January from Hank Pogue, president of Fort Thomas Enterprises Inc., whose father purchased the property in 1964.
Gilman told LINK nky earlier this year that getting a new tenant into the space was the top priority because the foot traffic is important for the retail component in the back of the plaza.
The café will update its progress toward opening via Facebook.