Fire and Ice.
It’s a famous poem by Robert Frost.
It’s been a real pain for Meghan Shaw.
Meg, as she’s known, is a former college swimmer who is the general manager of Salar Restaurant and Lounge, a popular Oregon District destination at the corner of E. Fifth and Brown Street.
On Christmas Eve, her boyfriend Brady Marinangeli, a former standout golfer at Centerville High School and now one of the top amateurs in the Miami Valley and the bar manager at Salar, surprised her by dropping to one knee and asking her to marry him.
The pair were on a loving high as they celebrated Christmas the next day and Brady’s 29th birthday the day after.
Then they returned to Salar, where they consider their 30-plus coworkers and owner and executive Chef Margot Blondet, their family, not just fellow employees and a boss.
“I spend all day working with these people – more time than I spend with my actual family,” Brady said. “Salar has been my home away from home. It’s a huge part of my life.”
And that’s what had Brady and Meg there late on December 28th. They closed up the restaurant and lounge and headed home to their place at Austin Landing. With their phones switched to “silent,” they went to sleep.
They missed a couple of early morning calls from Margot and then Brady got a text message from a friend who asked: “Hey, is everybody OK? I heard there was a fire at Salar last night.”
Brady said: “I was like ‘Whoa! What the hell?’
“I woke up Meg and she called and Margot said, ‘It’s gone! It’s gone! The restaurant is gone!’
“We were both freakin’ out and we rushed down there. When we pulled up there were lots of fire trucks blocking the road and we saw some firefighters on the side of the building. They were still putting out the fire. We saw some smoke and there was a lot of stuff setting out along the street.
“I was in shock and Meg was crying. Then we saw Margot and we all teared up.”
The fire caused extensive smoke damage throughout the place and in the back of the building it burned a hole from the first floor up through the ceiling to the second story, Brady said.
Contrary to initial reports, Meg said, the fire did not start in the kitchen, but somewhere else in the back of the massive building.
Although fire investigators still have that area quarantined, Margot and Meg and others have begun the arduous cleaning process in the front of the restaurant.
Building owner Adil Baguirov has told them it could be months until the structure is repaired and they can reopen. And so Salar and the five other businesses in the building remain closed.
As tonic to such loss, Meg and Brady went to a party on New Year’s Day and then called for a service for a ride back home.
“When Meg got out of the car, she slipped on the ice and fell and her left hand went under the car near a wheel,” Brady said. “The driver took off and ran right over hand.”
After a trip to the hospital emergency room, she’s been referred to a hand specialist. At the moment she’s in a soft cast.
“It was a crazy week,” Brady said the other day. “We had some good things and some bad things. But I guess this was perfect timing.
“We had to get her ring resized so it was back at the jewelry store. Luckily, it didn’t get crushed under the wheel.”
As Brady moves into marriage, here is an unsolicited tip from a guy who’s had plenty of slips — of tongue, not on the ice — with his spouse.
He might want to focus on a little more poetry than practicality.
It’s tough to see a perfect moment when you’re crumpled on the ice with the wheel of a car driving over your hand.
Growing up on the links
Brady and Matt Scharrer have known each other for much of their lives.
“I grew up with Matt, he’s like a brother to me,” Brady said. “We first started playing golf together in elementary school.
“My mom and one of the other moms in Centerville started a 9-hole league for kids out in Waynesville at Holly Hills Golf Course. I was probably 12 then and he was 11 and we’ve been golfing together since.”
When Brady was a senior at Centerville and Matt a junior, they helped lead the Elks to a third-place finish in the state tournament. Brady finished seventh as an individual.
This past summer the pair teamed up in a Miami Valley Golf Association (MVCA) two-ball tournament at Country Club of the North and finished second.
After high school, Brady went to Findlay University and played collegiate golf for two years before transferring to Wright State. He eventually ended up in Florida, turned pro and struggled on the mini-tour circuit.
Once he returned to Ohio, he regained his amateur status in 2016 and last August won the MVGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Sycamore Creek Country Club. In the past year, he also finished second as an amateur at the Toledo Open and won three tournaments on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour.
It was just over three years ago that a friend helped get him on staff at Salar. He worked his way up — bus boy, bar back, hosting, serving — until he became the bar manager.
At the same time — November of 2014 — Meg came to Salar.
She’s originally from State College, Pa. and swam competitively at Albright College, a highly-considered liberal arts school in Reading, Pa. She later took a premed post-baccalaureate program at Penn State University.
Once at Salar – which Margot created after moving here from Lima, Peru and serving as executive chef of Sidebar, a restaurant once owned by Brian Higgins at the same location – Meg fell in love with the place.
“It was very original,” she said. “Margot cultivated all of us to be creative, free thinkers. Usually an owner has a lot of control, but she’s the opposite of a micro manger. She really encouraged all of us and everybody responded. We had a really special environment.”
Some 14 months ago, Brady helped Matt – who had gotten a sports management degree at Ohio University – join the staff.
“It’s an awesome place,” said Matt, who eventually became a bartender, as well. “It challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone. I learned a lot of things that I can take with me in whatever I do. Things like customer service, communication, working under pressure, treating people with respect.”
Best of all, he said, was the bond with his fellow workers.
“We had a tight-knit staff. When you work together five and six nights a week, you become friends. You become family.
“That’s why now it feels like you just had someone you know pass away. It doesn’t feel real. It feels like someone you really cared about has died.”
While Margot is dealing with fire inspectors, insurance issues and the herculean tasks of cleaning everything and rebuilding her business, her most tugging concern has been the welfare of her employees, said Meg, who is helping her.
“She is concerned about her staff and wants to make sure they are moving forward and making some money,” Meg said. “She wants them OK in the short term.”
A few have landed on their feet, none more so than Brady.
A couple of days after the fire, Doug Spencer, his swing coach who he hadn’t been in contact with for a while, called and said he still was interested in adding him to the staff of his Spencer Golf Academy in Cincinnati.
Spencer knew nothing of the fire, he just knew the kind of golf talent and people person Brady was and thought he would do well.
Already Brady is learning the ropes when it comes to instruction of junior golfers and how to run golf leagues and he’s now listed on the Spencer Golf Academy website as one of the teachers.
Matt has joined his roommate and friend, Alex Carmoega, a former Bellbrook football and baseball player, at Lawn Innovations, the Kettering-based landscaping company that does snow removal in the winter and is especially busy this weekend.
A few more Salar staffers have gotten spot work at other Oregon District and area restaurants, but others are struggling.
Part of the problem for a few has been that, after working for Margot, they wanted to hang on out of loyalty and a love of what had been. But as Brady noted: “Some are married and have kids. They need to take care of their families.”
To that end, Margot and Meg are doing what they can,.
Meg began a GoFundMe page – gofundme.com/helpsalarrestaurant – to help staffers.
And anyone who has employment opportunities for the Salar staff can contact Meg by email: email@example.com
Noted Dayton artist Mike Elsass organized a “fire sale” of his work and that of four other local artists. It has been sold at a 20 to 80 percent discount at the Front Street Experience galleries (1001 E Second Street) and a portion of all proceeds is going to the Salar staff.
And last Monday Blind Bob’s bar in the Oregon District held a bingo fund raiser for the Salar staffers. Some 75 people showed up, including several Salar employees.
Matt was there with Alex and Alex’s girlfriend, Alayna Coughlin, and all three marveled at the caring others showed.
Close to $2,000 was raised.
“We didn’t ask Blind Bob’s to do that, they just did it,” Meg said. “People have really stepped up. We’re lucky to be part of such a special community. Everybody acts like family. They’ve been wonderful. It makes you really proud of the place you live. It’s just so, so nice.”
And one other thing is, too.
Meg has gotten her diamond ring back from the jewelers. She’s now wearing it on her right hand, but as soon as the swelling goes down and the cast comes off, she’ll move it to her left hand.
And that, Brady, will be perfect.