They knew the space at 27 Lincoln St. offered some unique opportunities that would allow them to expand upon the already successful business model they built at their two locations of Rox Diner -- one in Newtonville and the other in West Roxbury.
Introducing Rox Cafe, which quietly opened its doors to patrons on July 31.
Fortin said the soft opening provided the opportunity for the owners to "ease in" the menu and see how people responded to an eatery with the Rox name and quality, but with less of a diner focus.
"There was a learning process," Fortin said, adding that the first couple of weeks have gone very well. "We wanted to leave to some flexibility in there so that, when we get some feedback, we can make some adjustments."
As the "diner" in the name implies, Rox Diner has built a reputation on its breakfast and lunch offerings, but the Newton Highlands location has an intentionally different feel.
"We definitely designed it to be more for dinner," Fortin said. "We were anticipating that would be more of a focus -- as well as brunch, we can finally do some creative Bloody Mary's, have some fun with Bellinis."
The focus on cocktails, in fact, is a key difference between Rox Cafe and the two locations of Rox Diner, which can serve only beer and wine.
"The fact that you can have cocktails and spirits, kind of made us take some of the menu in a more bar restaurant direction," Fortin said. "We wanted to build something like a conversation bar as a centerpiece in the restaurant as a neighborhood place."
But Fortin and Louderback also wanted to pay homage to the location's past as a grab-and-go market, so they called upon architect Donald Lang to design a space that could appropriately house a bar and restaurant area along with a marketplace.
Rox Cafe's menu will be available for takeout via the market side, as will a variety of wraps, sandwiches and salads, Fortin said.
"We can have a bar, we can have a little market area," Fortin said. "They can coexist happily."
Fortin said that some of Rox Cafe's earliest customers have come in expecting to find exactly the same things they found at the Rox Diner locations, but have been pleased and receptive to the differences at Newton Highlands location.
Even though the cafe is different than the diners, Fortin said customers will still find several of the items they've come to expect at the diners -- in particular, the breakfast combo options such as "The Rox" and "The Isabela."
"A lot of what we do at the diner that people are appreciative of is combinations where you have sweet and savory at the same time," Fortin said. "We kept that."
For now, Rox Cafe serves breakfast only during part of the day, but Fortin said all-day breakfast items might be coming in the future.
Fortin added that the dinner crowd at Rox Cafe has developed more quickly than the owners anticipated, which was a "pleasant surprise."
"All in all it's been a really good response," he said.
Rox Cafe is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m.-9 p.m.