Thursday, February 22, 2024

Toledo According To… Ambrea Mikolajczyk

Years lived in Toledo: Born and raised in West Toledo

Occupation: Founder, owner ARK Restoration and Construction 

My story, in one sentence: Ambrea is a creative Christian mother of 4 who wears multiple hats which include being a real estate developer, a property manager, owner of ARK Restoration & Construction and motivational speaker. Ambrea recently “Stepped Out” of her corporate career as a pharmaceutical sales business manager to pursue her passion of restoring old architecture. Her educational experience includes a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences degree graduating from The University of Toledo where she played NCAA volleyball. Ambrea decided to dedicate her skill set full time to the growth and well-being of the companies she owns with her husband Kevin. She is obsessed with designing and creating something special from “undesirable properties” in underserved communities — to restore and beautify buildings.

Listen to the full interview, below:

Tolhouse, Kengo and Souk are the places in Toledo I’m most proud of.

Oh my gosh, there’s so many places. It can’t just be one. I’ve got a lot of friends in Toledo, who are entrepreneurs and on kind of these uncharted waters, if you will, just navigating and making our way. And so definitely a big kudos to Tolhouse. I love what my friends have created down there. And I love to go there and hang out with my friends and meet new people and have great food and great drinks. It’s just a great place. 

But then I also am a foodie. When I was younger my grandfather called me “table” because he said I was the first one at the table every time the food was ready. And so I still have cousins who call me “table.” I love food and restaurants and so I have to give a shout out to Kengo. You can find me there frequently throughout the week – even with my children. We love it. It’s just a great place to eat. As well as Souk; I love their brunch on Saturday. The best morning is to go to the farmers market, shop around and then end at brunch at Souk. You can’t just choose one place. I love taking my kids to the Toledo Zoo, the Toledo Art Museum, Imagination Station and even just a Mud Hens game – we’re season passholders. 

I will say if we’re going off new places, what the Metroparks have created at the Glass City Metropark is just unmatched. It’s a place where all colors, all ages, all different walks of life can go there, and it’s just this beautiful rainbow of people having a great time. And so I guess truly, if there was one place, it would be that Glass City Metropark.


My favorite Metropark is Glass City Metropark.

I also love Middlegrounds. So we don’t live too far from Middlegrounds. Before there was a Glass City Metro Park, we’d go to Middlegrounds all the time. And we still do. We take walks there, we play with the kids there. My son recently went to his first homecoming, we took pictures there. So Middlegrounds will always have a special place in our heart too.


The best meal I had in Toledo was at Kengo.

I can never choose one best meal. But listen, I would have to go back to Kengo. I’ve never had anything like it. And again, we go there frequently. But definitely one of the best meals I’ve had. But I’m difficult to ask that because I like all foods from all the places.


Jeep Fest is my favorite annual festival.

Ambrea and her family
Ambrea and her family.

We live downtown Toledo, work downtown Toledo and it’s so cool to see all those Jeeps just drive by our place, lined up with all different colors and variations and specializations on them. And, of course, my kids love it because they see all those Jeeps and then they throw out ducks. So I’ve got a collection of ducks at home that all got thrown out from Jeep Fest at us, a bunch of candy they get. But just to see all the different license plates from all these different cities and countries and states. It’s just an unbelievable sight that’s unique to Toledo. It’s an awesome way to be proud of your city and what we create and how we band together and we build beautiful things.


RELATED: Jeep Fest 2023: Your Guide and Fun Facts


Art Loop is my favorite local event.

It’s something that we always make sure in the summer we’re doing with our kids. They just have a good time with the bubbles and all the different things to see and arts and crafts. I actually also love the event at the Toledo Museum of Art that they do every year, where they shut down the road and there’s vendors and food trucks and other art projects. We really enjoy the arts; it’s something special that we like to do with our children.


Glass City Metropark is where I would take a potential client.

That’s funny, we have some new partners out of Cincinnati and they’ve been coming to Toledo quite frequently. When they were here last time we took them to the Glass City Metropark and they were blown away. We’ve taken them to Kengo, we’ve taken them to Durty Bird. We’ve taken them to The Chop House. We’ve got so many cool offerings in Toledo and there’s no shortage of places to take new people.


If my out of town friends are coming to Toledo, I would take them to the Toledo Zoo and Hollywood Casino.

All the places that we frequent. I’m always saying the Toledo Zoo; for people who like to gamble, the Hollywood Casino; for foodies we’re going to Kengo, we’re going to Souk, we’re going to Fowl & Fodder. I even like to take people to Toledo Spirits. Great cocktails, they have an amazing beef sandwich that everyone should try. 


One thing that holds Toledo back is the thought that if someone is already doing something, you shouldn’t do it.

It just seems like as much progress as Toledo made, we still have a long way to go. It’s exciting, because you can be a part of having a long lasting impact. That’s also what makes Toledo so charming, is that you can have an idea and you can bring it to life here. One of the things that I do feel holds us back sometimes is people think that you can only have one of something. I would love to see the city get past that, because if you go to larger cities, there’s more than just one person or one group or one organization doing the work. They might have a different spin, a different flair or a different perspective, that makes it just a tad different, but it doesn’t mean that the community doesn’t need it just the same. I’d like to see a whole lot of everything amped up; elevate it. If we are doing a better job of encouraging business and encouraging entrepreneurship and encouraging other manufacturing companies to come, then that hopefully means our city is growing and our population is going up instead of going down. We will need more goods and services to support people. I would like to see a whole heck of a lot of more of everything that we’ve got going on.


My favorite piece of local architecture is the Spitzer Building.

We’re currently in the process of doing a lot of paperwork on the Spitzer Arcade, and The Nicholas Building. Those are the biggest projects we’ve ever worked on to date. We have a group out of Cincinnati called Model Group that we’re working with to bring those projects to life. I’d say if there’s one, because you make me choose one, certainly the Spitzer Arcade has got a lot of beautiful architectural details that you do not see in buildings a lot anymore. That’s why I’m so passionate about restoration work, because you couldn’t afford to build today like they did yesterday. It’s important to preserve that architectural history because there will be nothing else like it. I’m super excited to be able to preserve it in that way.


I’m at my most calm in Toledo when I’m at home, in our renovated former tobacco factory.

Kevin and Ambrea
Ambrea and her husband, Kevin

Definitely at home. We renovated a former tobacco factory, and based on the way it’s positioned we were able to have a second floor deck that’s pretty large, but it sits right on the Maumee River that comes down to Swan Creek. We just sit on that deck, and it’s so peaceful – nature puts on a show. There are blue cranes, and birds of every species. I’ve got bird feeders and hummingbird feeders. At 8:30 pm or 9 pm the bats all come out, they’re swooping down low and flying. The leaves are just like whistling in the wind. It’s just so peaceful to sit on the deck and relax, listen, reflect and take it all in. In those moments, there’s definitely no other place I’d rather be than on that deck in downtown Toledo.


The street I drive on/walk on most often is Summit Street.

I’m up and down Summit Street, probably 10 times a day, because it’s kind of where we live and where we work. The main artery of our downtown Toledo is Summit Street for sure.


The best time I ever had in Toledo was during childhood with my family at Maumee Bay State Park.

I’ll go back to childhood. Of course, we’re creating a lot of memories for our children today, which are recent. But when I think about my childhood, some of the best times were at Maumee Bay State Park. So my parents, we’d picnic and all their friends and other little kids, and we’d pick a spot in the shade. I remember just running up that tall hill, and getting in the water and having this amazing picnic and just remembering pure joy and happiness and not a care in the world. I remember as a child, how cool that was and not believing that it was in Toledo. It’s not technically in Toledo, but just a few minutes outside of town you have access to that.


The best view in Toledo is the second level of Glass City Metropark.

When you’re on that second level, and you’re looking out and you can see the Garfield Eastside neighborhood, you see the Central Business District, you see the Vistula, you see the Warehouse District. You see a lot of our city from that perspective and it’s pretty dang special.


When I’m away from Toledo, I can’t wait to have Netty’s and Gino’s when I get back.

I need a chili dog and I need a cherry Netty freeze and life is great. If it’s not Netty’s, definitely Gino’s, right. You’ll go to other places and you’ll crave pizza like, “Oh, when I get home I’m going to Gino’s.” In fact, a number of friends that I have and family that I have, those are the two places to like when they come back home.


A Toledo nonprofit organization I admire is President Lisa McDuffie and the YWCA.

I feel like it is a way in which, as a community, we should come together and help women in need. There’s really no other organization like that, I feel like, doing the hard work to lift women up when they’re down and when they need the most help. At the YWCA, they really do that. Not only just with women, but really their mission to eliminate racism is incredibly important as well. 


For a fun night out, I’m going to Cooper’s Hawk. For brunch the next day, I’m going to Souk.

I don’t typically do chains, but Cooper’s Hawk has really grown on me. I’m a wine club member, and so one of my favorite things to do is meet up with a girlfriend, who I haven’t seen in a while, and we’ll do a wine tasting there. Then we’ll go have dinner and we’re there for three hours just like having wine and cracking up laughing and having a good time and reconnecting. It is pretty cool. Every month, you have these wine tastings, and so it’s a way for me to make sure I’m staying connected with my girlfriends, even though I’m living this busy life. It’s something that I really look forward to. Brunch, I’m definitely going to Souk on a Saturday morning.


The Wonder Bread Factory is the ARK project I’m the most proud of.

It was the largest project that Kevin and I had ever done. We were very ambitious, like who buys a factory? So we bought it in 2017. We had this really ambitious goal to convert it and make apartments and it took us four years to figure it out. We did it, and it was the hardest work of our lives. But it is now home to 33 residents. It is lively, it is beautiful and people love living here. Everyone has a unique story about what brought them here, and hopefully they can feel everything we poured into this: the love, the blood, the sweat and tears, the long evenings and the long weekends. I remember being here with our four children like, “OK, grab a brush, grab a mop,” doing everything we can to pull this through. From what we were able to accomplish, more things just continue to happen and come to life in this area, which is pretty cool.


RELATED: Wonder Bread redevelopment to cost a lot of dough


If Toledo had a new motto, it would be “We are doing better in Toledo.”

You see “You will do better in Toledo,”  but we are doing better in Toledo. Yes, it can always be better but currently, we have a great life here. Cost of living, little to no traffic when you compare to the major cities, you can live in a great space and not be home poor. I think, most importantly, you can have a passion and live it out and have an impact right here in Toledo versus if you went to a larger city, you might not be able to feel that impact. Heck, they might not even let you in the room, because it’s just that much larger, so it’s difficult to really make your mark. But I think here you can really make your mark and you can have an impact and see the fruits of your labor. We are doing better.


Paula Hicks-Hudson is the Toledoan I most admire. 

I love P.H.H. She is such an inspiration. To be the first Black woman mayor I’m sure was not an easy thing and I’m sure it’s continuing to not be easy for her. I think when you’re the first to do anything, it’s definitely going to be difficult, but she did it. And she’s still doing it. She is a constant source of inspiration for me.


My dream vision for Toledo would be that we are a community that embraces all.

That we are a community that embraces entrepreneurship. We are a community that embraces factory jobs. We are a community that embraces people who may not look like us. That we are more inclusive; that we are more equitable. But the only way things like that are going to happen is if you, on purpose, put things in play to ensure that you are being equitable, and you aren’t leaving people behind – through initiatives, projects, funding sources, that everyone freaking matters in this ecosystem. 

It’s our responsibility to make sure that we are looking out for everyone. That will be my goal. I come up against a lot of scrutiny and issues all the time. I got “Legacy” tattooed on me because that’s really what it’s about. Even though it might be hard, or I might be having this particular problem or struggle or issue, it’s important for me to get over it, because I’m doing it for the generations to come next. That’s my hope for Toledo: that we are inclusive, and not just from a race perspective, but even from an economic perspective, and we care about breeding a community in which we support entrepreneurs as well.

Keep up with ARK Restoration & Construction and Ambrea Mikolajczyk through @ark_restoration on Instagram,, or Ambrea’s personal Instagram,

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