SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — The resurrected Old Grist Mill Tavern opened its doors to hundreds of guests on Thursday night, for the first time in two years.
According to the Old Grist Mill Tavern’s owner Greg Esmay, hundreds of guests showed up for dinner on opening night but there was only space for 225, so the restaurant was forced to turn some people away.
The restaurant burned to the ground in June 2012 when a tractor-trailer driver hauling a load of bananas crashed into a gas main and power lines, sparking an explosion and fire.
Greg and his wife Sue said it was a long rebuilding process that cost nearly $4 million, much of it from their savings. Greg said he couldn’t have brought the restaurant back without help.
“People are supporting us, as they have since the fire and we are incredibly grateful for that,” he said.
The resurrected Old Grist Mill Tavern still has many pieces of the original 250-year-old restaurant woven into the new structure. The wood on the ceilings is nearly all original, as well as the ducks adorning the walls, Esmay said. He didn’t even try to cover up some of the burnt edges on some of the signs around the building that were pulled from the rubble over two years ago.
“We’re all very happy to have this restaurant re-open. It’s an institution in the area, lot of history and a lot of charm, and we’re all very excited to be here,” said customer Jack Boyajian. “I drove here from far away just to come here for tonight.”
- Photos: Rebuilding process underway
Customers were enjoying being back inside the beloved restaurant on Thursday night, and said they will keep coming back.
“I feel like it has a lot of the same old feeling, but it looks a little updated, so it’s fresh, with a very familiar feeling,” said customer Amanda Komerek.
About fifty people are employed at the Old Grist Mill Tavern, half of whom are the original staff from before the restaurant shut down.