MARCOLA, Ore. – Three friends are whipping out their own wallets to bring a beloved restaurant back to their community.
Tomahawk Investment Group LLC is looking to turn a potentially contaminated former gas station and sports bar property into an American-style restaurant – the only restaurant in the town of Marcola, said Barry Rogers, one-third of the group.
“There’s nothing else,” Rogers said. “I think the closest is the Springfield Country Club, which is about 15 miles south.”
Rogers, who has lived in Marcola for six years, said he and his fellow residents were sad to see Tomahawk Sports Bar and Grill close because of a financial dispute in early 2012.
“It was a really big loss when it closed,” he said. “It was something that people liked to go to, and from our perspective it really served a need in the community.”
Without the restaurant as a social hub, he said, the community northeast of Eugene has gathered only for public meetings and church services.
So Rogers, along with Laurie Smart and Bob Russel, who he knew through his involvement in the Mohawk Valley Community Grange, decided to revive the restaurant.
After indicating their intent to buy, the trio discovered that recent testing on the property had revealed petroleum contamination, indicating that underground gas storage tanks from the property’s gas station were leaking. But after discussions with the state Department of Environmental Quality helped them understand the cleanup process, they decided to move forward with the purchase.
The group completed its prospective purchaser agreement with the department in December, stating that they intended to purchase the property and would allow the department access for environmental investigation and cleanup regarding the potential petroleum leak on the property.
The agreement said the group would not be liable for future contamination or cleanup costs on the property that operated as a gas station from the mid-1940s until 2012.
Smart, who has lived in Marcola for seven years, said she only went to the bar and grill “once in a great while” when it was open.
Still, she feels the hole that was left in the community after the closing of the restaurant, which formerly hosted a couple dozen people at a time on any given evening.
“As a community, we all miss it very much, because it’s the only gathering place outside of church,” Smart said. Now, she added, the rural community “feels more disjointed.”
She said the restaurant would give people a place to connect with friends as well as a venue to form new relationships with fellow community members.
Tomahawk Investment Group plans to purchase the property for $65,000 this month and pay the Department of Environmental Quality $10,000 in cleanup costs.
Over the next few months, the DEQ will examine the extent and spread of the contamination, project manager Eric Clough said.