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Local chef Bill Sohovich dead at 61

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bill Sohovich, owner of Soho's restaurant at the Capitol Market and former owner of the Blossom Deli in downtown Charleston, died Wednesday after a recent illness. He was 61.

Sohovich grew up in Charleston and had always dreamed of owning his own restaurant, according to longtime friend Jeremy Still, chef at Edgewood Country Club. Still said his friend had been "battling physical ailments lately."

The two worked together at Harrah's Lake Tahoe casino in Nevada and moved back to the area around the same time in 1991, Still said.

Sohovich worked at five-star restaurants in Nevada and Florida, attended the Culinary Institute of America and ran two restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, before returning to Charleston, he told the Gazette in 1994.

That interview came as he prepared to open the Blossom Deli on Quarrier Street. Sohovich opened the restaurant at the former site of the Blossom Dairy, which was open from 1937 to 1991.

"People knew his dishes were consistent and always came back," Still said. "People knew they could get a good dinner there, and that's his legacy."

Eight years after Sohovich opened the Blossom Deli, he expanded and started Soho's restaurant in the Capitol Market.

"I think the time's right, the town's right, the [Clay Center] is coming," Sohovich said at the time. "This part of the East End is changing."

Tammy Borstnar, executive director of Capitol Market, said Soho's has been a market staple for 11 years.

"Bill was someone who loved everybody, he knew everybody by name and made everybody feel welcome," Borstnar said. "He was not only a phenomenal chef, but such a people person."

She said she isn't sure what might happen to Soho's now. A message on the restaurant's website Thursday read, "We will miss you, Bill."

In 2008, Sohovich and a friend opened a third restaurant, Billy's, at the former Smokey Bones location in Southridge Centre. The restaurant closed after a few months, though. Sohovich tried to reopen it after a brief hiatus, but Billy's soon closed its doors again. The location now houses a Mexican restaurant, Las Trancas.

In 2010, the Blossom Deli closed after more than 16 years. Sohovich blamed the closure on a lack of dinner business downtown. Two companies owned by Sohovich also filed for bankruptcy that year.

"We're alive and well at Soho's. And a lot of the food and the staff will travel from here to Soho's," Sohovich said the day that news of the Blossom's closing broke.

Still said Thursday that his friend loved roasting duck and walking the city.

"He was extremely successful and always had a very big heart," Still said. "He was always giving to the community, always walking the streets making sure to say hello to everyone."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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