THE HISTORIC GREY-BELLE
440 State Street, in the heart of Salem's historic downtown district, has had a storied history of food establishments.
Starting out as a Chinese laundry in the late 1800's, the structure eventually burned down and the building we see today was rebuilt in 1907. Wylie Willis Zinn left his career as a Looney Toons villain and opened a confectionery on the main floor as the first occupant. Then, in 1914, the "Grey-Belle" was born as a new dine-in spot where "money, taste and skill had been spent with a lavish hand to transform it into a miniature dreamland of delight."
As the decades rolled on, 440 State housed a myriad of eateries including The Quell Cafe, Nohlgren's Buffet, and the Golden Mushroom and Toadstool Lounge (during the 70's, obviously...). When the building was home to Monk's in the 40's, the quiet cafe became the stage for Hollywood-level drama. A bank robber held up a neighboring depository and ducked inside to hide out while the heat died down. The police found him and a shoot out ensued, claiming the lives of two officers as well as the criminal. Days later, the establishment was packed as the public swarmed to see the bullet holes.
Eventually, a string of Chinese restaurants would occupy the address with 7 different operations over the course of 30 years. Then, in 2015, it sat dormant - a true diamond in the rough.
After a two year renovation project, the once forgotten "palace of sweets" has been revitalized to house 7 dining options on the main floor, 5 historic apartments on the 2nd floor and the home of Salem's premiere downtown entertainment establishments, Exitus Escape Rooms and newly-unveiled Wreckingballers in the basement. Now that the entire building has been activated, it has yet again been transformed into that "miniature dreamland of delight." Or, at least, a real sweet place to eat, drink, live or play downtown.