When The Sandwich Mill at 1700 Sumneytown Pike in Kulpsville abruptly closed in 2012, it left foodies without their subs and musicians without their second-floor practice place.
Fear that the eatery would never reopen was vanquished Wednesday when it was announced owners Gregory and Dan Moore are nearly completed restoring the building to its original 1884 look, and ready to reopen in Fall 2014.
Gregory Moore said he acquired the property in 1987. Soon thereafter, it operated as Steve's Hoagies until 1996, when Moore bought out his business partner. For 16 years, it would then be known as The Sandwich Mill.
Moore said Wednesday that his brother joined up to restore the building to its original aesthetics.
"We spent a lot of money," Greg said. "We've exposed all the brick, and all the beams upstairs. We gutted the whole thing. It's taking a long time."
After shutting down in 2012, Greg said people either wanted to take over the business, rent the property or, in the case of Wawa and Dunkin Donuts, buy it and knock it down.
"We shook hands two years ago," Gregory said of Dan and he, "and agreed the place should never be knocked down. There are only a few buildings left around here that are not demolished. It took a lot for us to restore it and bring it back."
Moore said The Sandwich Mill used to be a feed mill in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
"Farmers would come to town to get their feed," he said.
Customers will soon step back in time to those old mill days upon seeing the "Bull Brand Dairy Ration" vintage advertisement on one wall.
With a new look, comes a new menu and catering opportunities. Dan Moore said the food will be fresh and made on-premises.
"We'll cook our own roast beef, our own turkey," he said. "We're getting away from the lunch meat."
The restoration also means a new, wood-fired pizza oven near the front door.
"There will be a guy there making pizzas in the front window," said Dan Moore's daughter, Danielle Moore.
The second floor saw the removal of a stove, and the creation of a new fireplace. All beams on the second floor were restored too.
"We took the drywall down to the brick," Greg Moore said, "and repainted the wood."
The plan, for now, is to make The Sandwich Mill a BYOB, which, in Pennsylvania, is allowed in any establishment, at the owner's discretion, whether the business has a liquor license or not.
The Moores came closer to finalizing their to-do list Wednesday when Towamencin Township supervisors approved a waiver of land development, thus allowing the owners to install a 96-square-foot walk-in exterior refrigerator at the rear of the building.
"The owners are in the process of restoring The Sandwich Mill. They spent $250,000 to make it back to the way it was," said attorney Ed Hughes, who represented the Moores at the meeting. "We have all the permits to do work upstairs and downstairs. One last thing we need is to put in a walk-in fridge at the rear of the building."
Hughes said the zoning setback would be the same distance as the existing, nonconforming building. A setback of 25 feet is required from Bustard Road, but the setback is 14.98 feet, Hughes said.
"We want to match the same setback with a 12-foot-by-8-foot walk-in fridge, which will be delivered on site and installed on a concrete pad, with a fence around it and possibly a sloped roof above it," Hughes said. "We will make it architecturally-pleasing."
The longest side of the refrigerator would be parallel with Sumneytown Pike, Hughes said.
The need for an exterior refrigerator is to make more room for patrons inside the historic building, Hughes said.
"It will make the restaurant flow better inside (for) patrons, and employees better serve customers," he said.
No parking spaces are being sacrificed for the installation.
Township Manager Rob Ford said supervisors had approved prior a waiver of land development for a restaurant with a similar request.
Now, the Moores move on to seek approval of a variance from the township zoning hearing board in July. They are asking for relief from requirements of a front yard setback of a corner lot, in order to install the concrete pad and refrigerator within the 25-foot setback.
"It's their civic responsibility," said Hughes, when asked about his clients' impetus for retroactive renewal. "They want to do good for the community."