While Farmer's Creekside Inn prospers, Bill Farmer keeps busy in the Village of Le Roy
If opening Farmer's Creekside Inn -- a restaurant and hotel spread out over four floors with two bars and multiple dining areas -- wasn't enough to keep Bill Farmer busy, he's had his businesses in Rochester (primarily Catenary Construction) to run, and he also acquired two additional properties in the Village of Le Roy that required some revitalization and restoration.
Both are still a work in progress.
In December 2016, he purchased the Bank of Le Roy building, which Bank of America vacated earlier in the year.
He started off 2017, before the Creekside even opened, with the purchase of one of Le Roy's legendary restaurants, the L.B. Grand, and its 150-year-old, two-story building.
The bank building, built in 1920, is nearly 12,000 square feet of commercial space. Farmer hasn't decided yet what to do with the first floor but thinks a brewery would be a natural fit. He has two tenants on the upper floors -- a recording studio and an artist/art teacher.
After the Creekside, the L.B. Grand restaurant and building have been a significant focus for Farmer since last spring.
"When we took over, we did immediately what we could do -- new chairs, new carpets, new lighting," Farmer said. "The kitchen has been a battle."
It's functional now, and up to code, but it still needs some work. The new chef, Bob Grant, got a new line right away -- new salamander, new grill, new ovens.
Grant revamped the menu but maintained the restaurant's focus on Italian favorites.
"It’s a classic place," Farmer said. "It’s really got a nice warm feel to it. We took a lot of the tchotchke stuff off the walls and put in some really cool antique light fixtures, and our guy, Bob Grant, our head chef there -- he works his fanny off and he does a great job -- I always hear positive things."
Upstairs, workers are just finishing the complete restoration of the four apartment units on the second floor. The units were completely gutted -- new walls, new doors, new windows, new kitchens. The large one-bedroom apartments will rent for $750 to $850 per month.
As for the Creekside (click here for our coverage going back to 2009), business is good, Farmer said. The deep winter months weren't as bad for business as he might have expected and the restaurant is getting about 65 percent of its business from outside the county, which is a good thing.
"We think we’ve got a strong connection with the Genesee Country Museum, with Letchworth, even the Finger Lakes Region, and not to mention Niagara Falls," Farmer said. "To me, and this has been part of my vision from day one, is that we want to attract people here. Geo-tourism, right? We want to bring people from all over the place and that means we have to have our profile high enough above the crowd that we stick out people say, ‘oh, yeah, let’s come here.’ ”
Farmer said the tourism staff of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce has been vital to helping the Creekside reach travelers.
"I think they’re an incredible resource, an incredible resource," Farmer said. "We’ll see how the year plays out but we’re in their dining guide, we’re taking part in email blasts, and another thing we’ve done is rack cards. They sound kind of cheesy in a way but yet for a certain amount of money we can spread those from Syracuse to Buffalo so people traveling down the Thruway will see the rack card, pick it up and see we’re three and a half miles off Exit 47."
Farmer said he also keeps an eye on keeping the local clientele happy.
"Genesee County is our base, and given the way we are geographically located, that takes in a little bit of Wyoming, a little bit of Livingston, a little bit of Monroe (counties) -- that 10- to 15-mile radius is our base."
For that base, the restaurant is planning live music during the warm months to go along with other promotions.
This will be the Creekside's first full spring, summer, fall season since Farmer got it reopened after nearly 10 years of remodeling and repairs. Farmer acquired the property about four years after a fire in 2004 gutted much of it and destroyed other parts of it.
Since reopening, there have been a few changes to the plan for the restaurant. The upstairs dining room, for example, was going to be dedicated to fine dining on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
That won't happen, at least not soon.
"We decided it's too complicated right now," Farmer said.
The room is working well, Farmer said, for hosting wine-pairing events, which sell out every time (there are events planned in April and either May or June) and hosting parties and other events for customers.
"The wine-pairing dinners offer some unique menu items and entrees and so far that suffices the creative needs of the culinary team and our wine director thrives on those events as well."
The Creekside is Farmer's first foray into the restaurant business and he admits that though there are moments of great happiness, it's far more stressful than he anticipated.
"It’s a learning experience," Farmer said. "I’ve always said a good day is when you learn something. Something should pop up on your radar screen every day that is, ‘geez, I didn’t know that.’ Well, it happens more and more with our restaurant businesses. It’s daily. It’s consistent, but there are even subtle things in construction that challenge and so that learning is constant. It’s good."
Photos by Howard Owens of the L.B. Grand and the second-floor apartments.