Celebrating their first-year anniversary in downtown Ocala, Ivy on the Square has left their indelible mark — a restaurant and boutique combination with signature retro vibe for the modern metro tribe.
By: John Sotomayor
Follow the cobblestone road that begins on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Broadway street to the new heart of dining and shopping in our blossoming downtown, Ivy on the Square. Celebrating their first-year anniversary at the new location on February 8th at the end of the cobblestone road, across the street from the historic Marion Theater, Ivy on the Square offers the essence of our new vibrant downtown — classic, traditional vintage blended seamlessly with contemporary, trendy vision.
“We were looking for something new and exciting, an opportunity to change things up — not only for Ivy on the Square but for downtown as well,” said Waica Micheletti, co-owner with her sister, Evelyn Nussel. Together, they are carrying on the founder Marjorie “Mimi” Hale’s legacy.
The beloved eatery began in Williston, in neighboring Levy County, 26 years ago within a 1912 French Country home. Ivy on the Square was introduced to Ocala over five years ago in an 1890 Victorian home on the boulevard to the delight of local patrons. When the opportunity presented itself to relocate at the new location, Waica and Evelyn thought carefully on the concept with the intent to maintain their signature early 1900s retro vibe, while also tapping into the modern metro mindset of downtown diners.
They landed on the 1920s speakeasy, with a modern menu.
Combining Waica’s interior design instincts with her boyfriend, Wayne Masciarelli’s building skills, the owner of M&M construction, together they devised a detailed, vintage industrial look that stands out from other restaurants.
Photos of the storefronts, fashion, and automobiles of the early 1900s in downtown Ocala capture the era, hung on the exposed brick walls. The furnishings and attire of the waitstaff are from the speakeasy timeframe.
Waiters dressed in suspendered black or gray pants and bowties with matching newsboy caps, bring patrons menus on wood boards all of the classic dishes that have become popular signatures of Ivy House over the past three decades — with a twist.
Waica and Evelyn added grass-fed wagyu beef for burgers, and cage-free chicken, as well as more salads and healthier options for the fitness-conscious downtown crowd.
New to Ivy on the Square is the large cocktail bar. Bar Manager, William Pickering, handpicked the bar staff with 10+ years’ experience to serve hand-crafted cocktails with names inspired by the speakeasy era, such as Bee’s Knees Mojito, Speakeasy Old Fashion, The Roaring Manhattan, Jitterbug Tea, and Rum Smuggler.
“We have a nice selection of bourbons: Brandy, Manhattans, Little Janes, EH Taylor, Eagle Rare, as well as scotches to warm the body,” said Pickering, adding, “and a carefully selected wine list.”
Happy Hour is every Tuesday — Saturday, 3 — 7 PM, which includes Cordela house wines, 2-4-1 well drinks, and $2 domestic; Michelob Ultra and Coors Light draft available.
Next to the cocktail bar sits the Dessert Bar, another unique attribute that sets Ivy on the Square apart, where all desserts are homemade. Delight on delicacies, such as the white chocolate crème burlee, buttermilk walnut pie, creamy peanut butter pie, pecan tulipe, and chocolate midnight cake. Ivy on the Square has an expresso machine and coffee bar to go with dessert.
Ivy on the Square has chic street-side patio dining in a romantic garden setting for those who enjoy dining al fresco.
Ivy on the Square has always combined a restaurant and boutique in every location. In fact, Ivy on the Square founder, Mimi Hale, started in the boutique business before adding the restaurant. The clothes and accessories of the stylish boutique attracted Evelyn since she was 4 years old. It had to be included, but where? The new location for the restaurant did not have available space.
“Where will the clothes go?” patrons would ask. The answer was available retail space diagonally across Magnolia Avenue, midway between the historic Marion Theater and the corner of Broadway. Waica and Evelyn acquired retail space to house the jewelry, clothes, accessories, and gifts boutique. Shortly after setting up, they added the home décor boutique next door.
Paulette Milhorn is Evelyn and Waica’s business partner, who oversees both boutiques.
“We carry many fashionable lines to choose from,” said Milhorn. Ivy on the Square offers everything from Ben’s Papers artisan greeting cards from Manhattan, to artist Houston Llew’s collectible handcrafted molten glass on copper Spiritiles art tiles direct from his Atlanta Studio, to The Naked Bee all-natural personal care products that is honey-based.
Romance is in full bloom in February. Ivy on the Square offers products assured to enhance romance.
“Love is everywhere,” said Milhorn, speaking figuratively and literally. They carry PJ Harlow lounge wear, such as nightgowns, pajamas, and robes, as well as many heart-shaped items throughout the boutique.
The Spongelle cleansing body wash infused body buffers, in both men’s and women’s scents, will have heart-shaped buffers for Valentine’s Day.
Ivy on the Square boutiques carry what they call “adult candy” — Sugafina, which are infused with different kinds of liquors, such as tequila and rum.
People will recognize the Joanna Gaines line, Magnolia Market. She and her husband host HGTV’s hit remodeling show “Fixer Upper”. Gaines has come out with a candle line. The bath and body products line by Joanna Gaines coming shortly.
Ivy on the Square boutiques strive to offer unique brands and latest trends at attractive prices. They also carry brands that make a difference.
“We have several lines here that give back to the community,” said Anna Dunwoody, manager of both boutique stores.
Ivy on the Square carries Good Works, which according to their brochure, “supports over 150,000 bags of groceries to underprivileged Americans, provides 160,000 meals to students in Uganda, and supports and helps build schools for 1st to 3rd graders in Kenya.”
“We have a fair-trade item, whereby the ladies in Thailand make ornaments, suncatchers, and package toppers, which are highly detailed,” continued Dunwoody. “They are paid a fair wage so they can raise their families.”
Ivy on the Square carries Mangiacotti, a line of lotions, spa items, hand repairs, and more. All of their packaging is designed and packaged by the handi-capable, so they are employed where they might not be employed.
The boutiques house two other businesses not owned by Ivy on the Square — Hello Gorgeous salon, and Recharge Clinic. Ladies, with Hello Gorgeous and Recharge, the combined jewelry, clothes, and gifts boutique and home décor and gardens boutique, are now a one-stop shop for everything to pamper oneself with the full spa treatment (facials, hair, and nails) as you shop and lunch. There is even a private room within the boutique that seats 25 for private dining or private party, like a bridal or baby shower.
Yes, they thought of everything. You’re welcome. OM