Walt Disney is famous for saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Audrea Carroll Weimer and Dante Ramirez learned that philosophy as children, so when Dante dreamed of opening a restaurant of his own, after more than 30 years of being in the restaurant, hospitality, and catering business, Audrea encouraged him to just do it.
Dante began bringing his vision to life with Audrea’s support as well as the support of three other partners, and the five of them turned an old building in downtown Celina into Tender Smokehouse, which opened in September of 2017. A great deal of sweat, determination and hard work followed, along with a dash of creativity and incredible support from the City of Celina. Tender Smokehouse was soon smokin’ hot, and word about the delicious food and outstanding service started to spread. Tender Smokehouse was voted “Best New Downtown Small Business in Texas” in 2018 and ranked #2 by Yelp! on its 2019 list of Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S.
With Dante’s dream realized in Tender’s success, it was time to focus on Audrea’s aspiration. Audrea always wanted to open a boutique, but she had worked in corporate America for more than 30 years and was hesitant to take the leap. Dante recognized Audrea’s talent as she tastefully decorated homes and brought Tender’s aesthetic to life, so he enthusiastically cheered her on toward her dream.
On a family trip to Florida in the summer of 2018, Audrea walked into a little seaside shop, and her vision suddenly materialized; she knew she was ready to move forward. Dante encouraged Audrea to broaden her vision beyond a retail space and to include a food element, so they began exploring ideas for the kind of boutique/eatery she should open. They considered a cake shop, an ice cream parlor, and various other options, but God had His own plans.
Joey Dawkins, a classically trained chef who believed in a farm-to-table concept, had created a wonderful following of foodie fans with his counter-service sandwich shop in a local Celina retail store. Audrea and Dante learned Joey was not renewing his lease at the store, and they also knew Joey’s food was just what the boutique needed. Dante talked to Joey about joining their new endeavor, and Joey immediately embraced the idea.
Another seemingly coincidental occurrence around the same time: while searching for an ideal spot for the new venture, a century-old building on “Walnut” Street in Celina became available. Joey’s sandwich shop had been named Toasted Walnut, so they decided to keep the name and its well-established brand and just add “Table and Market” to complete their concept.
But what to do with a run-down building with no real kitchen? Ben Hangartner, a Celina businessman, who has built a reputation for his honesty for his honesty, integrity, and hard work, was just the partner Audrea and Dante needed for the renovation. Ben and Dante had spoken previously about partnering on a project, so Ben readily joined the team. Ben and team put in the sweat, determination and hard work to make that building shine like a Texas star!
By June 2019, with construction almost finished, the dream was coming into focus, yet the partnership was not quite complete. After much careful deliberation, Audrea decided to leave the corporate world and focus exclusively on Toasted Walnut. In planning her departure, she discussed her new undertaking with a close colleague, Brett Hager, who was known for his business acumen, creative mind, and strong work ethic. That conversation was the start of sealing the final partnership, as Brett and his wife Amy came on board. Like Brett, Amy brings a strong work ethic as well as a keen eye for décor and a positive approach to everything she does.
Toasted Walnut’s owners—Audrea, Dante, Ben, Brett, Amy, and Joey—have all put in the sweat, determination and hard work to fulfill their dream. Now, they are delighted to invite their guests to come in, relax and enjoy a delicious meal; shop for unique gifts and decor in a casual, yet upscale setting; and experience Toasted Walnut’s heartfelt welcome during their visit. Perhaps nothing explains the Toasted Walnut mission as much as the adage painted on the back wall of the restaurant: “Bless the food before us, the family beside us and the love among us.” They look forward to welcoming you soon!
304 West Walnut Street, Celina, Texas 75009, United States