Old fire hall becoming new restaurant

George and Sarah Pierce to renovate fire station | Barbara Ball

RIDGEWAY – This spring, the old fire hall in downtown Ridgeway will open as the new location of Sarah-N-Geo’s, says Sarah Pierce, who owns the local pizza restaurant with her husband, George.

The sit-down dining location – which she envisions eventually developing into a place with live music and a large deck with outdoor seating overlooking the cotton yard – will replace their current takeout-only location around the corner in a repurposed gas station.

Yes, they’re renovating a building for a new restaurant in the midst of a pandemic during which indoor dining has been heavily restricted. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns. But she’s looking ahead to the near-future time when life will be able to return to normal in Ridgeway – and she’s eager to help it get there.

“It’s sort of a life philosophy to do things at the worst absolute time,” she jokes, noting that their wedding more than 20 years ago took place in the middle of an ice storm. “We know this is going to be difficult, and we’re going to do it anyway.”

Surprisingly, Pierce said, the restaurant has thrived during the pandemic, as one of few in the area that was already set up for curbside takeout and one of the first certified to reopen under the Palmetto Priority program, which guaranteed Covid-19 safety precautions were being followed.

At that time, they quickly launched an online e-commerce presence – and business took off.

“We got certified, reopened, and just exploded because we were the only place within a [significant] radius where you could get food,” she said. “People were so thankful that we could provide a night off from cooking and that we were willing to do curbside service and pop the hatch of your vehicle and drop the pizza in the back.”

Hoping to open their new location in May, they’re banking on life returning to normal – even if it doesn’t happen right away.

She said it’s an interesting journey that brought them here to Ridgeway and where they created their business.

George and Sarah Pierce both grew up in northern New York. Sick of the snow, they moved south, wound up working in Charlotte and then Columbia before they decided they were also sick of their jobs and wanted to work for themselves.

They opened their restaurant in 2018. George is the foodie, and Sarah is the one who keeps the books.

“There is really no reason that we should be this successful in a town of 400, but we are – and people go above and beyond to frequent our business,” Sarah Pierce said. “Our main thing is customer service. We work really hard at having quality, fresh ingredients, and everything is made to order.”

Rendering of the new Sarah-N-Geo’s location.

The new location is being developed in the former fire station at 170 South Palmer Street. The town is coating the roof and adding insulation, but the Pierces are doing everything else.

Once the new restaurant is open, she said, they’ll have an expanded menu that includes things like burgers, fries and wings. Beer and wine will also be served.

“George and I love to entertain, and we’re hoping that this location is a little reprieve for people, that they can come in and they know they’re going to be welcomed as family and they’re going to be served with good food and kindness,” she said.

“We’re going to have entertainment. I can’t say exactly what that’s going to be, but along the lines of what a lot of restaurants do – live music and sports TV and things like that.”

Within two or three years, the plan is to build a large deck on the back of the building for outdoor dining and live music. Mostly, she said, she just wants Sarah-N-Geo’s to make people smile. And so far, that’s been happening. The new project has been getting attention as a bright spot in a dreary and uncertain time.

Even if it might be done at first with servers wearing masks and tables six feet apart, she hopes it will be the kind of place where people can feel comfortable bringing Grandpa for his 90th birthday or celebrating Mom and Dad’s golden wedding anniversary.

“In my 45 years, I’ve never seen this level of societal glum, and so it’s just really cool to be part of something that makes people smile,” Pierce said.

Ultimately, she hopes the new location will also help to draw in customers from Interstate 77, State Highway 34, and the logging traffic that comes through town – and be part of the local effort to revitalize the area.

“Personally, this journey has shown me how important it is to shop and eat locally, and if you have the opportunity to support a local business, I would say please do that,” she said. “I firmly believe in the future of Fairfield County.”

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