A simple wood-framed building on Ashland's A Street — that once welcomed diners to what advertisements promised was "the best meal in the city of Ashland with hot coffee" — is on the brink of reopening its signature pair of double doors.

A simple wood-framed building on Ashland's A Street — that once welcomed diners to what advertisements promised was "the best meal in the city of Ashland with hot coffee" — is on the brink of reopening its signature pair of double doors.

A meticulous restoration of the J.K. Van Sant Building at 542 A St. is nearing completion. The building's owners, David Gremmels and Cary Bryant, will host an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Monday.

Then — in February if all the equipment arrives on time — Helena Darling, a long-time Rogue Valley restaurateur, plans to open Helena's, a restaurant specializing in baked goods, charcuterie and local food.

"The building is really coming full circle," Gremmels said.

Research through property sales records shows that J.K. Van Sant bought the lot in 1902 and sold a building there in 1905. That structure now is thought to be the only pre-1910 wood-framed commercial building in the Railroad District, Gremmels said.

Gremmels and Bryant bought it in 2000 with plans to restore it and open a wine bar there. But, when their search for cheeses to serve at their planned restaurant led to Rogue Creamery, they bought that business and rejuvenated it, reaping a slew of awards and becoming players in a burgeoning local artisan food scene.

"Our real thrust is that in this modern age where things are fast-paced, it's important to preserve our traditions and our history," Gremmels said.

Ashland contractor Jerry Nutter initially handled a string of small projects to protect the aging building, then settled in for months of delicate, dedicated restoration this year.

Eric Snyder of Snyder Engineering in Central Point — working from a 1910 photograph — designed a faithful replica of the vernacular storefront that once graced the building's false-front facade. Architect Carlos Delgado oversaw the work on site.

The sign in the historic photo reads "Palace Chop House" and research uncovered the ad touting the establishment's meals and coffee, Gremmels said.

Southern Oregon Sash used old-growth fir to build the distinctive storefront with soaring windows and a pair of double doors.

"It's so strong. It's a pleasure to work with," Nutter said of the wood that gleams warmly in the natural light.

The building also features original beams with heavy metal brackets, as well as an original door and windows at the rear.

Darling, who has operated a catering company, a kitchenware shop and several restaurants around Ashland in the past two decades, plans to install a counter that will feature bakery and charcuterie items, as well as sandwiches and take-out items from the restaurant, which will include seating for lunch and dinner in the 1,700-square-foot building. The bakery and kitchen will be behind the building in a 400-square-foot former shed that also dates to the early years of the last century. A courtyard between the two buildings will feature an herb garden and seasonal seating, Gremmels said.

Darling said she will focus her menu on regional food and bring in sausages made by her family's Wisconsin-based artisan sausage business, Whitelaw Sausage Co. She also plans to make terrines, smoked salmon and other charcuterie items locally.

"There will be a Palace Chop House pork chop somewhere on the menu," she promised.

An annual open house is a requirement for buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places that take advantage of a state tax-incentive program. At Monday's open house, Nutter will discuss the restoration project. Rogue Creamery will provide cheese. Helena Darling Fine Catering will serve other appetizers. Madrone Mountain Vineyard will provide wine and Noble Coffee will serve coffee.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.