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Italian restaurant under construction in former Cancun and Darby's location on First Street

Many of the buildings in downtown Newberg have a long and distinguished history. One of those buildings, among a row of brick structures on First Street, has been vacant since 2015, when Cancun Restaurant closed suddenly.SUSAN BRANNON - Tom Tesmer, co-owner of the building on First Street that formerly held Cancun Restaurant, displays the work done to prepare the space for a new Italian restaurant.

Tom Tesmer and Terry Emery purchased the building with the plan to restore the structure back to the original appearance, or as close as they could get to how it appeared in the 1920s when it was first constructed.

The new owners had to remove layers of paint, three layers of roofing and a lot of the dirt and grime left from the many years it served as a restaurant. The Green Lantern Cafe occupied the space in the 1940s and in the 1950s through the 1990s the building housed Darby's, a favorite breakfast hangout. Once Darby's closed, the Cancun Restaurant added new aromas to the walls.

Tesmer said he is determined to open an Italian restaurant in town (Pasquale's, the town's only other Italian restaurant, closed several years ago). He has already purchased the typical Italian red and white checkered tablecloth and ornamental bottles of Chianti wine to usher in an Italian mood for the future restaurant.

"Newberg needs a good Italian restaurant. We do not have any around here," Tesmer said. "It will not be a five star, tourism type of place, but one where people can sit down and enjoy a good Italian meal and not spend too much."

As crews were restoring the building they removed veneers down to the bricks. "We decided to restore the bricks and we found an arch in the back and kept it there. We had to redo the heating and air-conditioning system, the electrical system, we even had to run pipes from out there," he said as pointed to the sidewalk outside.

A patio has been constructed behind the establishment, with ample room for eating outside when the weather is nice. Tesmer and Emery decided to leave the old Darby's sign hanging on the back wall as part of the buildings' historical memory.

The re-design includes large glass French doors that can open the main dining room to First Street in the summer to compliment the restaurant.

"There is enough room in the front to put out a few tables on the sidewalk," Tesmer said.

After the Newberg-Dundee bypass opens later this month, officials anticipate a 50 percent reduction in the number of cars and trucks plying First Street and that will reduce the amount of noise and decrease automobile pollution. Tesmer hopes that it will "create a more relaxing environment for shopping, eating and doing business."

When the eatery will open remains to be seen.

"We just signed with a broker to try to find someone to run the restaurant and we need the right person and we will wait for that," Tesmer said.

Much work remains: the flooring needs to be completed and the interior design with table and chairs still must be chosen

"I don't care how long it takes, I just want a good Italian restaurant that serves good food. Who knows? It can take a few weeks, or a few months to find the right person," Tesmer said.

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