Pair makes father’s restaurant dream come true

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vidalia — Henry and Gary Farmer remember the good-tasting catfish and hushpuppies they ate at the Sandbar Restaurant in Vidalia, but that wasn’t exactly what convinced the brothers to buy the restaurant.

The catalyst for the purchase and the jump into the restaurant world was their late father, Henry Farmer Sr.

The Farmer brothers said their father had dreams of restaurant ownership and had his eye on one piece of property in particular.

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“Our dad always wanted to own this place, and he wanted to make it a seafood restaurant even before it was a seafood restaurant,” Henry said. “It never came together for him, but we always said if we had the opportunity we wanted to do it.”

And that is exactly what the brothers are doing. The Farmers closed down operations on Nov. 30 and got to work “restoring the tradition of the Sandbar,” Gary said.

That means pulling up carpet and restoring the heart pine floors, returning the cypress walls to their original beauty, repairing and renovating the kitchen and bathrooms and giving the restaurant an exterior facelift to boot.

“What we want to do is return the restaurant to what people remember about The Sandbar,” Gary said. “We ate here growing up, and the Rowlins did an excellent job of building this business. Now what we are doing is building on that and making this a place where people can come and eat, talk and leave happy.”

Gary and Henry Farmer and crews are working 12 hours a day to get the work done in time for an opening soon after the new year.

“There were four floors in the kitchen that we had to pull up to get to the original floor,” Henry said.

The floors are floors that were in the building when it was a house, Gary said.

The brothers purchased the restaurant from Ricky Rowlin. Gary said he always told Rowlin to let him know when he was ready to sell, but serious talks didn’t start until about six months ago.

The goal is to have the doors open on Jan. 3, but the real goal is to have all of the renovations done before customers come to eat.

“We are going to have everything just the way we want it before customers come back in,” Henry said. “Our vision for this place is somewhere that families and friends can come and enjoy good food and good service.”

But not everything is changing. Henry and Gary said the ambience and the appeal of the restaurant is staying the same and that includes the base of the menu.

“We’re using the same tables and chairs, and its going to have the same feel,” Gary said.

Many items on the menu are staying put, and the Farmers are adding a few of their specialties. That includes new appetizers, homemade desserts and grilled, blackened and boiled seafood options that weren’t on the original menu.

The new recipes will come from the pair’s mother and father, and their wives and other family members.

When renovations are complete the Sandbar, 106 Carter St., will be open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday.