Who We Are
Celebrating our tenth anniversary in August of 2016, Later Alligator has an established following of world class patrons and proudly thrives in Wheeling’s Historic Centre Market. We may have opened the doors and hung our shingle 10 years ago but the story really began some three and a half years earlier. Most restaurant owners tell of their passion for food and either man the kitchen themselves or hire a chef who can execute their vision. This was not the case for us. The Gator found its form through a lifelong love of design and renovation.
I was hopeful and had everything to lose. Wrapping up my late 50’s I took a chance and began to tackle the rehabilitation of a long neglected property. The Centre Market district was little more than one building after another of empty storefronts. Outside of Coleman’s Fish Market and a long established antiques shop, very few businesses succeeded. Looking at Centre Market’s physical layout I saw a diamond in the rough. The challenge was turn things around and I immediately set to translating ideas in my head to solutions. Working alone for 11 months, I was able to gut the street floor of this 1869 building of some 130 years of so called modernizations. Dropped acoustic tiles hid the original tin ceiling and the fireplace had been bricked over. A side door was discovered and the large prism glass windows in the back room were revealed. This was exciting but a reality check came into focus and I knew I had to get some help in putting everything back together again. I also knew I needed to get back to a job with a paycheck.
By this time I realized whatever the building’s fate, I needed to be a part of it. This was where I belonged. Interviews with contractors came up short. You want to save this floor? You’re going to expose those beams? No one understood my love for recycling and reuse. It wasn’t long before I recruited a friend and neighbor to take on the project. Thad had years of restoration experience with his own home and had just quit his job of 29 years. He corralled another friend and the 3 of us brought the shell into reality. As the months passed so too did the ideas. It was going to be a coffee shop, a toy store, short term office spaces and finally a restaurant.
With that decision made the only thing left was to be the best and make it work. There wasn’t a choice.
Several things set us apart from the crowd. The Gator is the only restaurant specializing in crepes between Columbus and Pittsburgh and we offer an option that very few local eateries have available to them. Weather permitting, you can enjoy your meal under our iconic red umbrellas in a beautifully landscaped courtyard or inside in a totally renovated 1869 Saloon surrounded by one of the largest private collections of Wheeling Steel memorabilia. It doesn’t hurt that our menu is full of deliciousness to fit even the most finicky eater.
There were bumps along the way and days we wondered if we would survive. We’re here because we couldn’t let the host of people who believed in us down. The success we know today took years of very long days and determination. We are thankful we had you behind us.