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The Farm is on deck at Finley Farms

Ozark Mill restaurant is not likely to make a 2020 debut

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Several months after The Workshop crafting and coffee shop opened in Johnny Morris’ Finley Farms development in Ozark, the next project is about to blossom.

The Farm, an urban farm with fruits, vegetables and flowers from heirloom seeds, is gearing up for its debut this spring. Finley Farms officials say The Farm utilizes organic production principles and practices, and it will allow community members to learn how to grow produce and flowers.

The Farm also will be a new vendor for the Ozark Farmers Market, which relocated to the development last May. Its 14th season opens May 7 and runs through September.

The Workshop, which debuted in October 2019 inside a renovated 1930s-era industrial garage formerly used by the Missouri Department of Transportation, was the first of the Finley Farms projects to come online. Nearby, restoration activity continues at the Ozark Mill, which will be converted into a restaurant, speakeasy bar and event space.

Megan Stack, daughter of Bass Pro Shops founder Morris, who owns the mill and Finley Farms development, is overseeing the projects. She said The Farm, led by manager Brendan Sinclair, would be really focused on the farmers market for the next several months.

“It will be geared more towards the restaurant once that’s online,” she said, adding farm produce also will be served in menu items at The Workshop.

Sinclair said he’s also beginning to teach classes, such as pickling and food preservation, as part of the farm-to-table concept at The Workshop.

“It’s to merge what’s growing in the garden, from forest to fork,” he said.

Upcoming classes at the venue include seed starting, backyard beekeeping and bread baking. The classes are generally priced $25-$75, with class sizes of 10-30 people, Stack said.

Mill work
She said restoration of the 30,000-square-foot, 1833-era mill has been a time consuming process, noting crews with general contractor Nabholz Corp. are moving as quickly as possible.

Opening the Riverside Grill restaurant in 2020 “would be an ambitious goal,” Stack said, adding 2021 is more likely. As a result, the debut of The Garrison bar and restaurant in the mill’s basement also will be pushed to next year, she added.

“It’s kind of hard to nail down that timeline with historic preservation and restoration construction being a little bit tricky,” she said, declining to disclose the project or overall development costs. “It’s hard to predict how long that’s going to take.”

Restoration work included rebuilding the foundation, which involved temporarily relocating the mill in March 2018. Between then and early 2019, when it was moved back to its spot on the Finley River, crews built a new foundation three feet higher than the original to better protect the mill from flood damage, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

“We want to do it right. It’s kind of a labor of love working with these older buildings,” Stack said. “We don’t want to make any mistakes by rushing things.”

Part of the current work is replacing many of the mill’s windows, which aren’t original to the building, she said. Plus, the mill’s original stamped tin has been removed to add insulation. However, the framing on the inside remains. After that’s complete, the tin will be reinstalled as much as possible, Stack said.

Construction also is ongoing for The Chapel, an open-air venue overlooking the river, Stack said, adding its launch likely will be timed in conjunction with the mill’s opening.

The Post, an ice cream and coffee shop concept announced in the original plans for the development, is no longer on the docket. Bass Pro spokesman Jack Wlezien said the existence of The Workshop as an on-site coffee shop factored into the decision.

For the Morris family, there’s a local connection. They are former Ozark residents, and Stack said her great-grandfather worked in a mill in Willard. She said the historic Riverside Inn restaurant, which shuttered in 2010, was a family favorite place to visit.

“There’s a lot of connection to this place and a lot of passion for it, to see it preserved,” she said. “We came to the Riverside Inn a lot and seeing it torn down was heartbreaking for the whole community and to our family, since we shared so many great memories there.”

New addition
Officials have hired an executive chef for the restaurant. Kevin Korman relocated to Ozark in January after previously working as executive chef at Whitebird and Whiskey Thief at The Edwin Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Korman said he plans to incorporate a little bit of Riverside Inn’s history and the newly launched farm into the menu.

“I loved the idea of delving into the history of something and help tell the overall story once they come and have the experience,” he said, noting the menu is under development. “That’s going to be a big part of what we’re going to do.”

Korman said he’s getting familiarized with the on-site farm and how to shape meals based on what’s fresh and available at any given time. Like Sinclair, he’s teaching classes at The Workshop. Korman’s already held a basic knife skills course, and a chicken butchery and cooking class is coming up.

Also on the docket is a supper club.

“It’s a moving target,” he said of the supper club concept’s debut date at The Workshop. “I want to invite people in to try some things I’m thinking of putting on the menu and get some feedback. Plus, it’s a great way to get a little teaser and get people excited about the project.”

Stack said it’s been special for her to collaborate with her father on a project in Ozark, where they have roots.

“It’s special for both of us, and to get to work together on it has been really cool,” she said, adding it’s a passion project for her father. “Our motivation here is definitely one out of passion for this place and the history of the Ozarks and not being led from a profitability standpoint.”

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