Another piece of downtown Redmond history is seeing new life as a different kind of gathering place.

Grace and Hammer pizzeria and bar is shooting for a July opening in the building at 641 W. Cascade Ave. that once housed First Presbyterian Church. The restaurant is the brainchild of Chad and Cinnamon Nemec, who are moving from Austin, Texas, to open the restaurant in the church that towers over the area between SW Seventh and Sixth streets.

While the Nemecs are new to Oregon, they are not new to pizza. They previously owned Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza in Austin.

They came to Central Oregon because they were one of the top sellers of Bend-based Deschutes Brewery’s products in their area, Chad Nemec said.

“They kind of took us for a trip around Central Oregon, and I fell in love,” he said.

While the Nemecs knew they wanted to open a restaurant in the area, they weren’t sure where, Chad Nemec, 49, said.

“We couldn’t find anything we could afford or do in Bend,” he said. “My wife actually found this place. It was love at first sight.”

The church was completed in 1912, just two years after the city was founded. It was last used as the Presbyterian church in 1979.

“The building is in phenomenal shape for its age,” Chad Nemec said.

After the church left, it was occupied by a dance studio for several years, said Trish Pinkerton, Redmond’s assistant to the city recorder’s office. The building later served as event space but has been vacant for at least two years.

The Nemecs bought the building in May. Construction started around November, Chad Nemec said. They previously hoped to open in May this year but were delayed because of the 40 inches of snow that fell in February.

They are working with the city’s historic commission on preserving the exterior of the building while making the inside a dining destination for the region, Nemec said. They even hope to use the tower’s church bell.

“We’re working with the city to see if they’ll let us announce service on Friday nights,” said Nemec, wearing a traditional Texas cowboy hat.

The biggest change to the exterior of the building will likely be an addition on its east end. It will allow for patio seating, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible restrooms.

“It’s really designed so it’s not really noticeable when you drive by,” Chad said of the addition.

Nemec, who spent 16 years in home construction, calls himself a sucker for old buildings. Their previous restaurant was in an old chicken coop, he said.

The church is the latest downtown building that had fallen on hard times to be renovated. The most noticeable, so far, is the former Redmond Union High School, which reopened as City Hall in 2017. Other long-closed buildings to be reborn include the Odem Theater, which is now a two-screen movie theater with table service, and the historic New Redmond Hotel, which is in the process of being brought back as a more modern hotel with a rooftop bar.

To maintain the quality of the pizza, the Nemecs brought from Austin chefs Pio Valensin, 32, and Adam Valentine, 27, who will also work as managers.

“They were kind of the brains behind the food being served and made it what it was,” Nemec said.

The Nemecs expect Grace and Hammer to become a destination for Central Oregon and beyond. A bar near the former altar will feature wood paneling from the church. There will be no televisions competing with the stained glass that takes up much of the building’s walls.

“I think it is going to be more of a romantic setting,” Chad Nemec said. “People want more than just good food, they want to have an experience.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,