Co-owners Keith Jeremiah and James Thomas conceptualized The Rialto after their former employer, Fianna Hills Country Club, closed at the end of 2018.
Their vision came to life in the first floor of the First Security building, which originally served as the Town Club. Thomas said he and Jeremiah have taken the staff they’ve worked with at Fianna Hills for 15 years and brought them on at The Rialto.
“We’re bringing the country club experience to the public!” he said.
Jeremiah said he first got the idea for the restaurant’s name from Brandon Goldsmith, whose play “The Western District” takes place in the original Rialto. One of the private rooms in the restaurant is also named for the Boston Store, which Jeremiah said was “the Neiman Marcus of Fort Smith” and stood where the restaurant stands today.
Keith Jeremiah, has been in the service industry for over 40
years. Most recently he was the Bar and Restaurant manager for Fianna Hills Country Club from
the late nineties until the club closed in 2018. Mr. Jeremiah began his career in the 1970’s with
the El Chico Corporation working in Arkansas and Texas. Throughout the 80’s he was a manager
for Western Sizzlin restaurants in the River Valley. In 2019, Mr. Jeremiah combined forces with
his good friend and Fianna Hills Executive Chef James Thomas to bring a casual fine dining
experience to historic downtown Fort Smith.
James (JT) Thomas Executive Chef was born in Little
Rock, Arkansas, starting on the grill at Cajun’s Warf at the age of 17. Mr. Thomas received his
Certified Executive Chef training from Hyde Park. His specialty styles are French and Cajun with
a strength in sauces and soups. Mr. Thomas honed his skill as Sous Chef at Baby Doe’s
Matchless Mine in Dallas, Texas where he was eventually promoted to Executive Chef. In the
early 2000’s, he refined his Executive Chef talents at Fianna Hills Country Club until they closed
in 2018. Mr. Thomas was Co-Owner and Executive Chef at Larry B’s in Van Buren, when the
opportunity arose, in 2019, to bring his knowledge of worldly recipes and love for the art of
cooking to Fort Smith’s Garrison Avenue, with his good friend Keith Jeremiah.