A beloved Macedonia restaurant has reopened under the ownership of Amy Parker and Brian Gardalen.
Since opening in February, Parker and Gardalen said their goal was to help make Macedonia — and the Back Forty — a destination place.
About 15 years ago, a group of eight locals pooled money to keep the Macedonia restaurant alive. After five or six years, that owner gave up and the restaurant foreclosed.
Macedonia was on the brink of losing its restaurant until one of the members of the group, Bryan Easton, took matters into his own hands.
Easton purchased the Back Forty and reopened it. Not because he was looking to buy a restaurant, he said. He wanted to finish what the group — now with only three living members — started in keeping the restaurant open.
With a history of multiple owners and name changes, the culmination of the restaurant has been “a place for burgers and beer, people working together to keep this small town alive,” Easton said.
“If you take the school and the restaurant out of a small community, it dies,” Easton said. “Every small town should have a place you can take your family.”
Easton hired manager Mike Nolan to run the Back Forty for five or six years until last June, when Easton realized he wanted to close, too. In late December, Easton sold the restaurant to Parker and Gardalen who have kept the name and are taking a “hands on” ownership approach.
“We saw the void in the community when the Back Forty closed and we wanted to do something about it,” Brian Gardalen said. “The art gallery across the street said they noticed a huge decline in business when the restaurant closed and got to the point where they open by appointment only.”
In making Macedonia a destination place, Gardalen said the success of the Back Forty comes from repeat customers and customers traveling from other areas, word of mouth that it’s open again.
“We see our customers coming 40 or 50 miles to eat at our restaurant and I believe that helps other businesses in town, too. Every night we have our regulars who come in and talk. It’s a meeting place for the community. An area to catch up with someone,” he said.
In recent weeks, Gardalen said they have released a full-scale menu that includes 12 to 15 newer items such as burgers, hand breaded chicken and onion rings, appetizers and salads.
“We’ve spent a lot of time getting the menu put into place. Everything is locally sourced. From the start we’ve made it our goal to get away from frozen packaged foods and serve food you can’t go to the store and buy. Food that your grandma used to make … you never left the table hungry,” Gardalen said.
Although the owners didn’t anticipate being so involved, Gardalen said they have been working longer hours than their previous positions — remodeling homes and working in various capacities of the restaurant industry.
“We’re not just picking up where the previous owner left off. We are making this our own,” Gardalen said.
So far, the Back Forty is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week for food, and until midnight for the bar. Bar time is extended Friday and Saturday nights until 2 a.m. The kitchen closes at 8 p.m. on Sundays and the bar closes at 9 p.m. on Sundays.
“We didn’t anticipate our customers becoming a second family so quickly,” Gardalen said. “When you’re going on a few hours sleep and someone makes it a point to come to the door of the kitchen to praise you on the service, it makes it all worth it.”