Last week Justin Furman, the 40-year-old owner of a pair of burger restaurants in North Carolina, met up with St. George Island deejay, skimboarder and icon of hipness Chip Sanders to talk.
Furman had just cut a three-year deal with Havard Spencer, owner of Harry A’s Bar and Night Club on the island, to lease to own the legendary dining spot, and needed to pick up a few things at Ace Hardware for the place.
Sanders had someone in mind that Furman had to meet, so they stopped by the Apalachicola riverfront home of Harry Arnold.
Arnold, now 85 and who had long since sold the place he had started decades ago and gave his name to, was back home recuperating from a serious medical incident that had landed him in Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.
“Chip told him ‘Grandaddy, we got the place back,’” recalled Furman.
“The smile on Harry’s face was unbelievable. He said as soon as I get healed up, I’m going to come out. I’ll be honored to do that,” he said.
Arnold even invited Furman to stop by the Tin Shed and see if there was anything he needed to add style to the place.
Furman’s style of business is a key reason why locals are enthusiastic at the change in ownership. Spencer had clashed with a bevy of regulars at Harry A’s, ousted Sanders from his deejay role and even produced a list of names of people who were subject to “No Trespassing” orders, Sanders among them.
“Those trespassing agreements and being ‘banned’ from coming back,” Furman wrote on Facebook. “No longer in effect. We legally got that taken care of.”
In fact, the bearded father of six even posed in front of the restaurant with a piece of paper listing the dropped orders, demonstrating the steps he planned to take to be more welcoming to locals.
“I have had a lawyer draw up a small contract… with the names of people legally trespassed and got that signed by him (Spencer),” he said. “All the trespassing (orders) have got lifted. All are welcome back.
“While being here on vacation I’ve heard the concern from the locals,” Furman said, in an interview with the Times. “I enjoy the hospitality business, I love that part of people. Every human being, some in tears, told me they would love so much to have their place back. I thought, “I got to do this for these people who live here.’
“My goal is to create jobs and bring back a place that brought together so many family and friends before. I have to do this not only for me and my family, but for the community that I’m now in,” he said. “I want everyone to be welcome.”
Furman owns two Furman’s Burger Bar restaurants in North Carolina, in Waynesville and Canton, which boast of their “specialty craft burgers” and their being voted the best restaurant in the county.
He said he wants to expand the food offerings at Harry A’s, offering more seafood choices and Po Boy sandwiches. “It’s not going to be just a burger joint,” Furman said.
Plans are to be fully open and operating by August 1, with the hours being 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. staff permitting, from Sunday through Thursday, and then on Friday and Saturday, will be open until 2 a.m.
He said he envisions “a wonderful family place,” although at 10 p.m. the patio out back will be limited to customers age 21 and over, as it features live bands, karaoke, deejays and a variety of other events.
Furman said he is grateful for the work of Lance Bockelman, a realtor with Anchor Realty, who facilitated the deal. “Lance got this ball rolling,” he said. “I came here to look at another property, and then Lane introduced us and stepped out of the picture.”
Married to wife Elizabeth, Furman had two young adult children from a first marriage before remarrying, and then had four baby boys in five years with his new wife.
“They’re all in diapers at the same time,” he said. “I pay the power bill at Huggies.”
Furman said Harry A’s may be temporarily closed to prepare for opening day, and is inviting people from throughout the area to submit applications for all positions. To do so, reach out to him at (828) 774-1114.