Merchant temporarily closes for renovations to make way for new menu, decor

The restaurant will expand its kitchen, welcome a former executive chef and add new renovations.
Interior Of Merchant
Photo Courtesy of Merchant Madison

Merchant Madison closed over the weekend and will remain closed for the next three to four months as it undergoes renovations.

Joshua Berkson, co-founder and president of the Rule No. One Hospitality Group, which manages Merchant, says the new menu and decor is an opportunity to grow.

“Merchant is an ongoing experimental endeavor, a restaurant that is also a teaching kitchen, a place for an expression of our craft, and most importantly, a community gathering place,” Berkson says.

Merchant, which opened in December 2010, will spend the next couple months adding new aviation-style windows, new finishes, wraparound seating and an expanded kitchen. In addition to the new decor, it will also have a new menu.

Merchant is working with Chef Jon Nodler — who is joining as the team RNO’s culinary director of research development — for the revamp. Nodler started his culinary career working at the Madison Club under Chef Dan Fox (now of Heritage Tavern). He later headed to Merchant, where he worked as an opening line cook in 2010 before becoming its executive chef in 2012. Later that year, he moved to Philadelphia with his wife.

Jon Nodler Photo

Former executive chef at Merchant, Jon Nodler plans to oversee the restaurant’s renovation. (Photo Courtesy of Merchant Madison)

He worked with various restaurants in the area and became the recipient of numerous awards — including the “Rising Star Chef” in 2017. He worked as the Executive Chef and Culinary Director for High Street Hospitality Group, which includes the High Street on Market, the High Street on Hudson, amongst others.

“I look forward to the next chapter of Merchant, since it’s where I started, and getting the chance to play a leadership role at RNO in pushing hospitality forward in Madison,” Nodler says.

Nodler and Andrew Vogel, executive chef at Merchant, will work together to create the new menu. During the renovations, the Merchant team will host pop-ups in homes and other restaurants to test new food and cocktail recipes.

“The new culinary direction will be fresh, celebrating the American Craft Movement, as well as our mission to create spaces for celebrating and treating each other and ourselves well. We are committed to a culture that champions humility, collaboration, respect, inclusivity, and equity across the restaurant,” says Berkson.

Berkson adds that after grappling with all of the uncertainties wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant group decided this new undertaking would be important to the restaurant and the community at large.

“We, as a restaurant group, had so much time over the pandemic to think about what we could do differently, and it allowed us the opportunity to approach hospitality with renewed focus to reopen Merchant with a larger mission. What we do is centered around the craft of cooking, drinking and serving; however, the humanity of how we do this is equally important,” says Berkson.

The updated Merchant is set to relaunch in early 2022.

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