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One eatery closes, another opens

A cornerstone of the downtown restaurant scene closed this weekend, but the building soon will turn into a new eatery serving downtown residents and visitors.

Pisces, a seafood restaurant owned for the past five and a half years by Stephen and Margaret Gellas, is now closed. It will reopen within the next few weeks as The Plaid Turnip, owned by former Pisces chef Ed Beardsley.

Margaret Gellas said “a lot of reasons” led to the sale of the business.

“I guess the biggest one [is] that we don’t have a life, and we had to make a decision as to whether or not we wanted to scale back so we can have a life,” Gellas said. “We’re not getting any younger. We just decided it was time to start thinking about ourselves.”

Gellas said she and her husband were frequently at the restaurant six days a week, 15 hours a day.

“You never get a vacation where you get to string more than two days together, especially if you’re a hands-on operator, which we are,” Gellas said. “It’s very time-consuming and all-encompassing.”

The Gellases opened Pisces at the corner of Washington and Main streets, and it has served mostly seafood-based fare to an ever-growing crowd of downtown residents and visitors.

“It’s a very bittersweet moment, because when we came here initially five and a half years ago we put our heart and soul into this restaurant,” Gellas said. “We made a lot of friends and had a lot of great times.”

The Gellases now will have more time to relax and to concentrate on Primo 116, an Italian bistro they own around the corner from the old Pisces restaurant.

The couple sold the business to Ed Beardsley, a former Pisces chef and former operator of Art’s Kitchen on West Washington Street, where restaurant Sushi Aka is now located.

“It’s always been my intent to operate a restaurant,” Beardsley said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Beardsley has offered employment to all of Pisces’ employees, he said, and also will be hiring new people to cover the breakfast shift. The Plaid Turnip will serve “comfort food with a twist,” Beardsley said.

“It’s going to be an eclectic menu, but things that everybody recognizes,” Beardsley said. “We’re going to keep some seafood items, but not as involved as the stuff Pisces was doing.”

Beardsley acknowledged that some may think he’s crazy for starting a restaurant in a tough economic climate, but he remains confident that people will visit.

“If you give people what they’re looking for at a good value, they’ll come, anyway,” he said. “I’ve learned to listen to what people want, and it makes my job easier.”

The Plaid Turnip will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Beardsley said, but he has not yet decided on hours of operation. He also will be changing the interior of the restaurant and inviting local artists to display their work.

“I really wanted an approachable, comfortable restaurant,” he said. “People can get some good food and not spend a lot of money doing it.”

Beardsley hopes to reopen in about two weeks.