About-Us (1)

About Us - The Story

Jason Liu, Owner of Acorn Alley, front along with Kent Economic Director Tom Wilke, Jim Antal, Property Manager & Mike Tarpoff of Muirfield Realty Group
Jason Liu, Owner of Acorn Alley, front along with Kent Economic Director Tom Wilke, Jim Antal, Property Manager & Mike Tarpoff of Muirfield Realty Group

About Us - The Story

Acorn Alley, the Kent Hotel and the Burbick Companies' former properties along Erie Street have a new owner eager to continue supporting local businesses in the spirit of the late Ron Burbick.

Jason Liu, owner of J. Liu Restaurant and Bar locations in Dublin and Worthington near Columbus, bought the former Burbick properties for $6.5 million on Feb. 8, a date that was not arbitrarily chosen.

"In Chinese culture, 'eight' is a similar pronunciation to 'prosperous," he said.

Despite being based in Dublin, Liu said he's no stranger to Kent. His niece graduated from Kent State University in 2019, and he had visited several times while she was a student at the university.

Locally, Jim Antal will manage the properties as he's done since September, Liu said.

As a restaurateur who built his business from the ground up, Liu said he understands what it means to be a small business owner, and added that he plans to support the tenants as Burbick did in Acorn Alley and the other nearby properties, which also include Tree City Coffee and Laziza on Erie Street in addition to the historic Kent Hotel.

"You want tenants not to have too high a rent," Liu said. "I came here on a visit and loved it at first sight. I believe it's managed well, and everyone can be successful here."

Mike Tarpoff of Muirfield Realty Group said he thought quickly of Liu as a buyer who holds the same values of community and entrepreneurship that Burbick held in his years in Kent.

"In the spirit of the Olympics, he'd like to take the torch from the Burbicks and carry on as they have," he said.

Antal, who will work locally at Acorn Alley, said he and Liu have confidence the existing tenants will continue to thrive.

"Obviously, all our tenants are truly valued," he said. "They pretty much went through COVID-19 and survived, and that says a lot about each and every one of them. We want to help promote them even more than what they're accustomed to."

Tarpoff said Antal will continue to work closely with the tenants.

"The thing Jim brings to the table is, he's on-site and available to the tenants at all times," he said. "We didn't want to run it from Dublin. Jim brings local knowledge, local connections, and relationships with the tenants. That's a very important thing. Jason respects everything Ron tried to do. He studied his history, and he was so impressed with all of that."

Antal said he appreciates the help and support he's received during the transition period as he's been working to get to know the tenants and their shops.

"Michelle Hartman, previous property manager and CFO under Ron Burbick, and Dave Stone, manager of facility operations, were extremely accommodating to me in their free time to help me understand the history of Acorn Alley and our tenants," said Antal. "Both were very approachable and have strong ties to everyone in Acorn Alley and care about their future."

Liu and Antal have plans to create a website for the properties that will help support community events aimed at supporting the businesses.

"We want to work with other ownerships and developments to bring more activities downtown," Antal said.

Tarpoff said working together with nearby businesses and property owners can benefit all involved.

"There's a reason the car dealerships all go near each other," he said.

In addition to owning the J. Liu restaurants, Liu also is a 50% owner of Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington and is working on a mixed-use development in Dayton.

Liu said he has developed a long record of supporting the communities where he has businesses and property.

"I'm involved with every community where I have businesses," he said. "For example, in Dublin over 18 years I’ve been part in the Dublin Irish Festival. We want Acorn Alley to be a destination spot for everybody visiting Kent."

Antal said there are currently four business vacancies and one apartment vacancy. One of the business vacancies is the former Franklin Hotel Bar.

"For Franklin Hotel Bar, we have probably five people who have expressed a strong desire to rent the space," he said. "Four out of five want to bring in a speak-easy kind of concept."

Wilke said the bar "already kind of had that feel."

"It's a great complement to The Kent Stage," he added. "People love to go there first and then go see a show.

Bob Gaetjens   | Record-Courier

Q&A with Owner, Jason Liu:
Hard work and a willingness to learn