Bucking Columbia's trend toward chain restaurants, two independently owned eating places -- Sonoma's Bar and Grille and Columbia Crab House and Raw Bar -- have opened in Owen Brown village in the past few months.
Sonoma's, which serves seafood, salads and Southwestern-style dishes, opened in the village center about three weeks ago and had its grand opening Friday, said Steve Heintzelman, owner and operator.
The 15-employee restaurant is in the space formerly occupied by Cover to Cover bookstore and cafe that was renovated during the past several months, Heintzelman said.
"So far, business has been great," he said.
Heintzelman has operated several restaurants in Ocean City. Sonoma's is the first he has owned, he said.
He chose the site in Owen Brown, he said, against the advice of friends and colleagues who said the aging village center -- one of Columbia's oldest -- would not be a good place to open a restaurant.
"But this village center didn't have a local watering hole, and Columbia is a great area in terms of demographics," Heintzelman said. "There are also a lot of chain restaurants here, not a lot of niche places."
The owners of the new Columbia Crab House and Raw Bar on Dobbin Center Way said some of the same issues led them to open their restaurant May 13 on Dobbin Road.
Since they opened the six-table seafood restaurant, business has been so good that owner Tom Johnson and his partner are considering expanding, Johnson said.
"On Fridays and Saturdays, especially around dinner time, it's tough to get seating," Johnson said. "There's usually a wait."
The owners also run the Crab Shanty in Clarksville and a coffee shop in Washington.
Pub Date: 8/05/97