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The Garrison nears opening day at Finley Farms

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The latest offering at Finley Farms is approaching its debut in Ozark.

July 1 is opening day for The Garrison, a speakeasy-themed small plates restaurant and bar in the basement of The Ozark Mill. Reservations are required, and officials say they’ll begin accepting them June 17 exclusively online via Finley Farms’ website.

Kevin Korman, who is executive chef of both The Garrison and The Ozark Mill Restaurant, which opened in September 2021 on the main level of the facility, said he wants the newest component of the Finley Farms development to have an air of exclusivity.

“I really wanted something that was a destination,” Korman said. “I want it to be a very difficult seat to get because I want people to really talk about it.”

Some influences of the speakeasy theme include chandeliers over the bar made from clear liquor bottles, while a somewhat hidden exit door exists at the top of a stairway on the back end of the 4,950-square-foot space. The Garrison’s entrance takes guests through a molasses tanker tunnel – a previous component of the 1833-era mill that Finley Farms spokesperson Dayle Duggins said was used to sweeten grains.

“When they walk through the tunnel at The Garrison, we want them to just be taken into a totally new experience,” said Megan Stack, daughter of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, who owns the mill and Finley Farms development.

Upon opening, The Garrison’s menu will feature 18 dishes and eight cocktails, as well as beer, spirits and wine. Seafood and steaks share menu space with more unique offerings such as bison tartare, mini pot roast and black kale.

“We also have continued the farm-forward vision here at Finley Farms,” Duggins said. “A lot of the menu incorporates items that are grown on our farm. There’s about 17 organically grown ingredients that are featured throughout the menu.”

Korman said the menu’s fried chicken dish is a nod to the Riverside Inn, which was started by Howard Garrison in 1923 and operated in Ozark until 2009. While Garrison died in 1974, Korman said he was able to consult with Eric Engel, who was the final owner of the inn, about the dish and what made it special.

“I did not want to recreate that dish,” Korman said. “I wanted to do our interpretation of it as really an homage.”

Aside from being the restaurant’s namesake, Garrison is paid tribute by the hanging of several of his paintings, as well as his original sketch of the Riverside Inn prior to its opening.

“So many family members that were related to folks who owned the mill or worked in the mill have shared with us stories and artifacts,” said Stack, who oversees the various Finley Farms projects. “Howard Garrison’s family have shared paintings or stories about him.”

Duggins said The Riverside Room, a 150-occupancy event space located adjacent to The Garrison, began hosting gatherings at the start of the year.

With The Garrison’s pending opening, the second phase of Finley Farms is set to wrap this year when Ozark Mill history tours start, she said, adding the date is still to be determined.

“People will be able to go on a behind-the-scenes journey that spans from the river into the gear room, and they’ll actually get to go up into the mill and see it functioning with the gears and the belts, sounds and sights,” she said.

Phase III plans are in the works, Duggins said.

“It includes plans for overnight accommodations, a brewery, a boathouse that allows folks to get out on the river, and our bridal suite,” she said. “The timeline that we’re looking at for that is still in the planning phases.”

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