Walking by Slocum House in Fair Oaks Village, the less informed couldn't be blamed for assuming the fine dining restaurant was still in operation. However, walking inside, paints a different picture.
The floors are covered with plastic, protecting them from sawdust and plaster. Bare walls expose insulation and brand new windows. The Slocum House is under renovation and property owner John Bansemer is hopeful to have the building ready for business as early as June.
That type of business, however, remains to be seen, Bansemer explained.
It's been more than one year since Slocum House, a venerable Fair Oaks institution under Bansemer's parent's (Ken and Pat) ownership for more than 30 years, served its last meal.
"I still get calls from people saying, 'I didn't know it was closed,'" Bansemer said.
In March 2011, The Sacramento Bee reported former Slocum House financial consultant Jack Kandola and business partner Joe Wittren lost their lease for the hilltop location, explaining business had been down since 2009 during the failing economic times many faced.
"2007 and 2008 were tight," Bansemer said. "It was tough on a lot of people."
Bansemer explained it was a little more complicated than diminishing returns (read: unpaid rent) that lead to the decision to terminate the former operator's lease. Decisions were made without the property owner's approval or knowledge - decisions Bansemer believes that should never have been made. This time around, things would be different, he explained.
For the past three months Bansemer's brother David has been steadily restoring the building's interior to its previous historically accurate state, ensuring the building is ready for whatever comes next. That means reinstalling a certain type of carpet, repairing the roof, replacing dry wall and completely restoring a room that had been converted without the family's approval.
"It's got good bones," David said, referring to the building's foundation.
Bansemer hasn't made any definitive decisions as to what type of business will open in the Slocum House, if it's a restaurant at all.
"When it reopens, it will be fit and finished," Bansemer said.
A changing local market
Right now Bansemer is entertaining a number of ideas, including a new type of fine dining restaurant. However, the local market has changed.
A number of fine dining restaurants in Fair Oaks have opened in the time Slocum House has been closed. Off the top of his head, Bansemer rattled off restaurants like and , just to name a couple. Competing with those types of restaurants could present Slocum House with challenges that didn't exist at the height of the restaurant's success.
It will boil down to synergy, Bansemer explained. Of the elements that made Slocum House such a success was having a fiery and talented executive chef in the form of Gabriel Glasier and an operator that could handle the wild type.
Finding an operator who has an understanding of that evolving local market is also fundamental, Bansemer said.
"The operator will need to know the evolution of fine dining and its local market," Bansemer said.
Fine dining is just one of the ideas Bansemer is entertaining. He believes the building could be just as viable a location for wedding and corporate banquets and a center for other events, including cooking classes.
"I get to be the broker to create ideas for potential operators," Bansemer said.
Asked if he had found that right type of operator, Bansemer was coy.
"We might possibly have someone, but not yet."