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York's newest restaurant concept is up to you

A new restaurant is coming to downtown York soon.

But whether it will be a sushi bar, an ethnic Indian restaurant or something else is entirely up to you.

For the last year, Toni Calderone and Allison Given of Tutoni’s Restaurant said they knew they wanted to do something cool with the former LadyBug Baking Company space at 33 N. Beaver St.

When they couldn’t decide, they thought why not test out a few different concepts before choosing the perfect one?

And so, the Taste Test pop-up restaurant series was born.

The idea is to feature four different restaurant concepts – one every four months for 16 months.

After all four concepts have been tested, the community will vote on their favorite, and that idea will be turned into a brick and mortar restaurant at a nearby storefront with more space.

“The goal for us is to diversify the downtown York dining scene and get the community engaged,” Given said.

The series will kick off with a quick-service sushi restaurant, she said. After that, she and Calderone will take ideas from the community for their next concept.

Some of their ideas, so far, include ramen, Indian and a juice bar.

“We did some interviewing on the streets when we first started (planning),” Given said. “We’ve heard a lot of people are hungry for different ethnic food options. We’ll look into something like that.”

After receiving a $20,000 grant from YorIt, an initiative of the York County Community Foundation, Calderone and Given are now working to renovate the North Beaver Street location.

“We’re renovating the space now to be a vanilla box, and each concept will have its own personality,” Given said.

The goal is to open by the end of summer.

At that time, Given said she and Calderone plan to partner with York College’s Department of Hospitality Management to run the business. Students will help develop each restaurant concept from start to finish, which includes creating a business plan and working on branding and marketing efforts.

“It’s a way for them to get classroom knowledge and real-world experience,” Given said.

When the project is complete, Calderone and Given will offer an opportunity for ownership of the final brick and mortar location through a crowdfunding campaign. Lower-level donors will receive discounts at the restaurant, and higher-level donors will receive a share in the company.

“That means we’ll have a community-owned business,” Given said. “We hope at the end with the whole voting process and the opportunity to crowdfund and gain a piece of ownership that the community at large will feel real ownership of this spot ... Our other goal with the college is that they feel a sense of ownership as they’re working on the project and it gives them a reason to stay after graduation.”