Work has started at 803 Fort St. to restore a long-empty historic building into the next home of Sake2me Sushi & Seafood Grille.

Mike Huskey, owner of Sake2me, confirmed Wednesday the restaurant is moving from 2306 Vine St., where it’s been the past three years. An opening date, however, isn’t firm yet.

“We were kind of hoping for May, but we may be pushing that back,” Huskey said. “Redoing the concrete floor will take a while.”

The move brings Sake2me back to its roots, downtown, where it started eight years ago at 700 Main, what is now Tiger Burger.

“We’re moving back downtown because I actually get to purchase our own building,” Huskey said.

Huskey has signed a five-year lease with an option to buy from the building’s owner, Adam Pray, a real estate agent with Platinum Group LLC in Hays.

Pray recently purchased the 2,500-square-foot building from Leroy Riedel, owner of nearby Master Cleaners Inc. Riedel bought the building last fall. It was sold at a sheriff’s foreclosure auction brought by Sunflower Bank against DFC Holdings and Liberty Group Inc.

Built in 1930, the concrete-block building with a red-brick front was originally a lumber yard, said Pray, who researched the history through the Ellis County Register of Deed’s Office. The building shares a south wall with Top Notch Cleaners, but window holes filled in with concrete block suggest it was originally a stand-alone structure, he said.

“The building sat vacant for so long, and was not taken care of,” Pray said. “There was a 6- to 8-foot hole in the roof. And all the drop ceiling had come to the floor.”

To start fixing it up, the old roof has been torn off. The concrete blocks also require some repair, which is underway now. Because the floor isn’t level, it’ll be torn out, allowing for floor drains to serve Sake2me’s kitchen and bar area, Pray said.

“Everything will be new,” he said. “The roof, the trusses, the plumbing, the electrical, the concrete.”

As part of downtown’s Historic Chestnut Street District on the National Register of Historic Places, Pray is working with the Kansas State Historical Society on the restoration.

This is his third such project, the others being the buildings on both sides of Platinum Group’s offices at 116 E. 11th St.

“We’re able to get it remodeled for a pretty decent price,” Pray said, noting the building was previously used for batting practice by a local middle school traveling team, and before that it housed The Hub Bicycle Shop.

Sake2me, sushi with an American flair, serves a variety of traditional sushi, but also other non-standard kinds, like a pulled pork version and a steak, peppers and onions one, said Huskey. It also serves french fries.

“It’s a sushi concept,” he said, “but we use a lot of American ingredients that we’re used to.”

A native of St. Louis, Huskey didn’t start out planning to own a restaurant. A Culligan man doing installs and maintenance, he developed a taste for sushi at a restaurant in Lawrence and ended up teaching himself how to make it. Friends put in orders, including for large catering events, weddings and graduations.

“I was getting calls every day for sushi,” he said.

Huskey’s is one of several sushi restaurants in Hays, including Kitsune, a new one that opened recently inside The Uptown Fox, 1202 Main.

The relocated Sake2me holds some new offerings for customers, but Huskey said he’ll wait until closer to the opening to share those.

“Mike has got a super cool concept that I think is going to be a big hit,” Pray said.