BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Josh Wagy never thought he’d be deliriously happy about the arrival of an 8.5-ton Rheem HVAC unit, but for the restauranteur, the equipment is a sign that the long-awaited Farnsworth Cocktail Bar will open this fall.
“This has held up work on the ceiling and the floor,” said Wagy, who has watched the renovation of the old Waterville State Savings Bank stall as the pandemic created product shortages that delayed his original plans by over two years.
Stepping inside the 1924 building, Wagy pointed to the unfinished ceiling and floor and explained that scaffolding needed to install the ductwork and tin-like ceiling would crack the tile floor that’s planned. Now that the unit is in place, work is full steam ahead.
“I’m excited,” said Wagy, who is known for starting Toledo’s Kengo Sushi & Yakitori with Kengo Kato in 2014. He’s since sold his portion of the business to focus on Farnsworth Cocktail Bar, or FBC as he calls it.
The tall windows let ample sunlight into the old bank, which has a large walk-in safe with a 2-foot-thick door that opens to reveal shelves that may be used to store wine. The walls are painted in Sherwin Williams’ “Oyster Bar” color. The handicapped-accessible ramp and entrance, restroom and patio are complete. The wooden vestibule for the front entrance has been restored. An L-shaped tiled bar with a granite top fills half of the room. Behind the bar sits the commercial stove with a French top and a gas grill that will use wood chips to give oysters unique flavors.
“I didn’t want to call it an oyster bar because half of all people love oysters and the other half will turn their nose up,” he said.
An experienced oyster chef from Seattle has already been hired, and he’ll use his West Coast contacts to ship in fresh oysters with the best flavors.
“Oysters range in tastes. Some can taste coppery, like a penny, and others might have a cucumber flavor. We’ll go for the ones that have that cucumber taste,” he said.
In addition to oysters, seasonal seafood, sandwiches and salads may also be on the menu, which will be a little different.
“We’ll have hot plates and cold plates, not appetizers and entrees,” he explained. “You can order a plate for yourself or several plates for the table.”
The building is small, so inside seating is limited to 16 at the bar, 12 in the northeast corner and another 10 in an area that still has the wooden shelf where bank customers used to fill out deposit slips. Outside, the patio will seat up to 14, and Wagy envisions the grassy area behind the bank being filled with picnic tables and yard games for those who want to enjoy a drink, a meal and camaraderie.
Bartenders, cooks, dishwashers and servers are among the 8-10 employees Wagy plans to hire. He wants people who work hard and have good attitudes more than he’s looking for experience.
“These will be careers. We’ll come in and eat a family meal before we open,” he said. “I believe that if you’re not working hard, no one is having fun. We’ll have a lot of fun.”
The bartenders will use a cocktail bible to make the classics well before getting an opportunity to get creative with the bubble gun or smoker to make a signature drink.
“My motto is ‘Know the rules before you break them,’” he said.
The atmosphere will be light and casual – a place where someone in shorts and a T-shirt can fit in along with those stopping by in evening attire. While cocktails are the theme, FBC will also have four taps with craft beers and a cooler with canned beers like Bud Light available at the same going rate as other local bars.
“I’m not going for Michelin stars here. This will be fun and casual, but the food will exceed everyone’s expectations,” Wagy said.
A soft opening for neighbors is tentatively planned for early October, with a grand opening to follow.