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Finley Farms opening new restaurant Friday

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 12:32 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 6:16 PM CDT
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OZARK, Mo. (Edited News Release) - Finley Farms announced The Ozark Mill Restaurant overlooking the Finley River will open Friday.

The cuisine is farm-to-table inside the restaurant. In addition to the scenic riverfront restaurant, The Ozark Mill’s first floor also features a general store offering pantry staples and a one-of-a-kind event venue, the Hawkins Room. Reservations are currently required to dine at The Ozark Mill Restaurant. To make a reservation or view restaurant hours, visit finleyfarmsmo.com.

“We are so honored to be reopening the historic Ozark Mill,” said Megan Stack. “Countless hours have been spent restoring The Mill to create a place for the community to gather and celebrate. We’re grateful for the hard work and passion our team, mill experts, historians and community members have contributed to preserving this special space and we look forward to sharing it with locals and visitors alike.”Ongoing renovations at The Mill will continue to include additional gathering spaces, both honoring the legacy of Ozark’s famed Riverside Inn. Located on the lower level, The Riverside Room will be a gathering place for wedding receptions and special events and The Garrison, a turn-of-the-century speakeasy, a space for craft cocktails and social gatherings. A self-guided tour through the property will also be available later this year where guests can take in the rich, vibrant history of The Ozark Mill.

In addition, guests will be able to connect with nature by taking a walk across the historic Riverside Bridge to The Chapel, a wooded venue located on the banks of the Finley River, opposite of The Mill. Both venues are now booking events for 2022. A grand opening celebration for The Ozark Mill is planned for this fall with dates being released in the coming weeks.

In 1993 noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops, Johnny Morris, purchased The Ozark Mill with a vision to preserve the building’s historic structure and reopen the Ozark landmark as a riverfront restaurant. In 2016, his daughter Megan Stack became involved in the project and developed a broader dream for an urban farm, coffee shop and trail connections. Together, Morris and Stack, along with key local residents, have worked to make Finley Farms a historic destination and reopen The Ozark Mill as a centerpiece for the Ozark community.

“It’s going to be a game changer,” said Ozark Chamber of Commerce President Greg Williams of the expected economic impact of the Ozark Mill and Finley Farms project that’s restoring the town’s historic past. “It’s a world class facility and to see it brought back to life there’s a sense of pride and most of all I think appreciation.”

“We have actually had some diners here this week who have gotten emotional after coming in and seeing that the mill still looks very similar to how it looked when they experienced it previously,” added Dayle Duggins, Finley Farms Marketing Manager.

The Ozark Mill’s Rich History

Originally built in 1833 and preserved with care, The Ozark Mill serves as the heart of Finley Farms. The grist mill was located at the convergence of the Finley River and the Ozark Trace, the mail delivery route through the area. In addition to being a gathering place for the community, The Mill filled many of the critical functions of the settlement such as the Post Office for receiving weekly deliveries. In 1992, the structure retired as the last commercially operating watermill in Missouri before being purchased by Morris. With the help of talented engineers and construction workers, the entire mill was rolled back from the Finley River so its foundation could be restored in 2018. It was repositioned on the edge of the water and flood gates were installed. Thanks to mill experts, historians and the local community, The Ozark Mill has been restored in a genuine and authentic way for all to enjoy from the rafters all the way down to the flooring.

“The flooring went through a kiln firing process that really stripped out any moisture in there,” Duggins explained. “Then they were placed one-by-one back to where you see them today.”

There are also plans for the mill itself.

“We do hope to get this mill up and running again so people who visit can see how the gears and pulleys function together as it did when it was producing cereal grain,” Duggins said.

While the restored Ozark Mill is expected to be a popular place among locals, there’s also a hope that its influence will extend far beyond the town of Ozark.

“We’ve talked to the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Springfield and they see this as another attraction for millions of visitors who travel down Highway 65 from Springfield on their way to Branson or vice versa,” Williams said. “It will produce tax revenue and new jobs but I think the real game-changer will be as a tourist attraction, a stopping point to experience a very historic property that’s been brought back to life.”

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