The family that created an upscale Italian restaurant in downtown Columbus before the district’s renaissance is looking for a new owner to carry on its legacy.

The extended family that owns Tre Bicchieri — a fixture on Washington Street since 2006 and a popular place for family celebrations and business lunches — has decided to move away from the restaurant business and onto new life paths.

The Glick and DeClue families have decided not to renew their lease on the Tre Bicchieri building at 425 Washington St. A few individuals have expressed some initial interest, but the restaurant could close after Dec. 31 if a firm ownership deal doesn’t materialize by then.

For restaurant owners Trevor and Kelly (DeClue) Glick and Kelly’s parents, Kim and Elaine DeClue, the moment is bittersweet, filled with memories and also hopes that someone will step forward to purchase and run the restaurant.

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“I would like to see that for the downtown,” Kim DeClue said.

There are several reasons behind their decision to step away, most of them revolving around the close-knit family and family members’ needs.

Kelly Glick said one of the main differences between 2006 when the restaurant opened and now is that she and her siblings have become parents. Lives have evolved and gotten busier.

“With our children being older (9-year-old Sophie, 7-year-old Ethan and 5-year-old Eli), we just need to shift our focus,” Trevor Glick said.

For the DeClues, medical concerns about their son Mac, who lives in Boston and is in clinical trials for treatment of a brain tumor, caused them to re-evaluate where they need to be to support their family.

“We’ve been lucky with his treatment, but we understand we may or may not have to be available in the future,” Kim DeClue said. “We want to be proactive rather than reactive.”

The DeClues also are watching over their mothers who live in the Columbus area, keeping an eye on their continued well-being.

The need to focus on their family is also coming at a time when the cyclical restaurant business nationwide continues to remain in flux.

“The restaurant business is notoriously tough,” Kim DeClue said. “But our demographics are certainly better than when we started this in ’05 and ’06 — drastically better.”

That’s the result of new businesses coming into Columbus, and existing businesses expanding, which brings more people to Columbus, he said.

It isn’t unusual for a family-owned restaurant to make this type of move, said Karen Niverson, executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

It’s not about profitability, but about the toll it can take on families to run a restaurant operation the right way, she said.

Niverson said Kim DeClue — a member of the visitors center board — and his family have always stepped up for the benefit of others.

“Their heart is with the community,” she said.

Witnessing change

The physical and social environment in which the family started a sit-down Italian restaurant downtown is dramatically different from when Tre Bicchieri began 12 years ago, family members said.

Kelly Glick joked that residents could see tumbleweeds rolling down downtown streets when her father was a part of a community focus group to analyze the fact that there were no sit-down, upscale dining options for local corporate leaders to take customers, prospective employees or even their families for dinner.

The DeClues started looking into the idea of filling that void by revamping the structure that had housed an earlier restaurant at 425 Washington St. — a two-story, long, narrow space with an apartment above it.

The family had never operated a restaurant before, but Kelly and brother Ike DeClue had worked at restaurants through college — and the large extended family had a tradition of good food, comfortable surroundings and gatherings of friends, their mother said.

“Early on, we didn’t know enough about it to be scared,” Kim DeClue said. “It’s been a lot of hard work.”

The upstairs was transformed into a meeting space and reception area. They added a whimsical window seat and comfortable cushions at the floor-to-ceiling windows that face Washington Street.

Downstairs, the family built out the bar just in front of the kitchen and created moveable table and booth sections so the restaurant’s seating could change as needed.

Some of the tables sit near the front windows that face Washington Street. Outdoor seating is available near the front door in summer months along the Columbus downtown streetscape.

Customer feedback

The name Tre Bicchieri, which means “three glasses” in Italian, was chosen because of the family’s love of good wine, Kim and Elaine DeClue said.

Through the years, the restaurant operators experienced a great deal of joy and family camaraderie, bonding with Columbus residents and their families, as well as out-of-town visitors who sought out Tre Bicchieri for its charm and delectable food.

Employees of Cummins and other local industries are frequent visitors and often make it a point to bring guests to the restaurant, the family said.

Among the reasons customers return are the fresh herbs grown in Tre Bicchieri’s own alley garden, with hand-picked pesto frozen throughout the summer for use year-round, Elaine DeClue said.

Menu favorites include Tre Bicchieri’s lasagna, chicken parmesan, seafood diablo and grilled salmon, along with salads.

The restaurant changes its menu about three times a year and experiments with different Italian recipes, gleaning feedback from their customers. The restaurant’s source ingredients come from local suppliers, staying true to the restaurant’s promise of high quality, locally sourced food.

Loyal customers who come back and express their love for the restaurant and its ambiance have meant a great deal to the family, Kelly Glick said.

Their employees have been loyal, too, because they are treated like family, Kim DeClue said. Seven sets of siblings, mostly sisters, not related to the DeClue family have worked as servers at the restaurant.

The large, extended family has provided a number of nieces and nephews who have worked at the restaurant. The DeClue children — Kelly, Mac, Ali and Ike —  have all worked there as well. Customers have also supplemented restaurant staffing with their own family members.

When it opened, Tre Bicchieri was asked to step up as an anchor booth at a just-starting Columbus Farmers Market, something the family enthusiastically supported.

The restaurant has become known for its community service, participating in downtown events and fundraisers, donating items to help good causes and maintaining an active role with tourism and the Visitors Center.

Art gallery, too

Tre Bicchieri is also known as an eclectic art gallery, offering a variety of paintings, photographs and other artwork on its walls for sale by the artists, with all proceeds going to the artist.

The artwork idea started as a way to highlight the restaurant’s tall walls with large panels of artwork, and has evolved into an ever-changing gallery of interesting work, something Trevor Glick chuckles about.

“I always like it when someone complains that something got sold,” he said.

As the family prepares to leave the restaurant business, Kelly Glick says there isn’t just one thing she will miss — but a variety of them, from the vibrant downtown nightlife to all the interesting people she has met and the friendships that have been made over meals and wine and conversation.

“It’s been exciting, never dull,” she said. “I don’t know a better way to meet people. It’s just been special to be a part of this community. And all the people who have come here for an anniversary or for a birthday, that’s been really special — they came here on purpose.”

Niverson described Tre Bicchieri’s presence downtown as perfect for people wanting to have a unique dining experience in Columbus.

“That’s what visitors are looking for,” she said.

If a new owner isn’t found, losing the restaurant will be tough, as the only other upscale dining option remaining is Henry’s Social Club, which Niverson said is concerning in the short term, but not necessarily in the long run.

“Our market will draw more of this type of restaurant in the future,” she said. “We have to have options. We don’t have to have hundreds of them, but we need options.”

Keeping track of downtown restaurants

Recent arrivals

Lucabe Coffee, 310 Fourth St.

Upland Columbus Pump House, 148 Lindsey St.

Upcoming arrival

Luciana’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina, 310 Washington St.

Recent departures

Fork at 532, 532 Washington St.

Bistro 310, 310 Fourth St.

Papa’s Deli, 412 Washington St.

Smith’s Row, 418 Fourth St.

New owners or pending departure

Tre Biccheiri, 425 Washington St.

Ongoing downtown restaurants

Columbus Bar, 322 Fourth St.

Dairy Queen, 616 Third St.

Fourth Street Bar and Grill, 433 Fourth St.

Gramz Bakery, 409 Washington St.

Henry Social Club, 423 Washington St.

Jill’s Diner, 421 Seventh St.

Joe Willy’s Burger Bar, 1034 Washington St.

Le Petit Caraibes, 412 Washington St.

McDonald’s, 611 Third St.

Naturalee, 903 Washington St.

Papa’s Deli, Third and Chestnut streets

Puccini’s Smiling Teeth Pasta & Pizza, 318 Washington St.

Savory Swine, 410 Washington St.

Sogno Della Terra, 901 Washington St.

Soups by Design, 424 Washington St.

Subway, 300 Washington St.

Taku Steakhouse, 305 Fourth St.

Thai Connection, 527 Washington St.

The Garage Pub & Grill, 308 Fourth St.

Yats, 325 Fourth St.

Zaharakos, 329 Washington St.

ZwanzigZ Pizza, 1038 Lafayette St.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.