Sadler's Kitchen Set To Move Into Landmark Building
By KELLY GOOCH
JACKSONVILLE -- Sergio Hernandez isn't a regular at Sadler's Kitchen, but the quality of the food offered at the Jacksonville eatery is still fresh in his mind.
"I remember ordering a burger, and it was a good burger.
They always have good food," he said.
"I know a lot of people who are regulars who go there. If I had the money to go (more often) it would be great. It beats going to the fast food restaurants."
Hernandez can enjoy that same good food when the restaurant moves into the Landmark Building next month.
The building, located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 and U.S. Highway 79, was recently acquired by Lon Morris College for the school's Hospitality Administration Program specializing in the academic areas of event planning, restaurant management and hotel operations.
Sadler's Kitchen Owner Rob Gowin said he has had opportunities to move before, but with Lon Morris seeking a restaurant partner for the hospitality program, the timing was right.
"They approached me and asked 'what are your thoughts on something like this,' and the first word out of my mouth was 'absolutely,'" Gowin said.
"It's a very unique opportunity, just the concept of putting a business with a college. I can't imagine what this provides or will provide in training for these students. They'll get to be involved in a real-life daily business."
The move will give the restaurant more space, expanding its kitchen from 200 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
"My kitchen will act as lab space for their students once their students reach a level where they're having to do internships," Gowin said. "It (also) will provide hands-on training in a business that's a restaurant."
He said he is still going to seat 50 to 60 people at a given time, but there will be more floor space for events and functions.
For instance, at the appropriate time, Gowin plans to display student art and hold events, such as a murder mystery dinner theater.
"Lon Morris has good theater department … it (the Landmark) gives access for those students to have a venue to showcase their art and showcase their skills," he said.
Overall, Gowin said, Sadler's Kitchen, Lon Morris and the Landmark will play a pivotal role in Jacksonville's efforts to attract more visitors and artists.
The Blue Ribbon Committee, a group of people associated with the city, Jacksonville Economic Development Corp., Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville ISD, are trying to do exactly that by establishing the city as the Arts Capital of East Texas.
Chamber President Peggy Renfro has said the group is working together to see "how we can help each entity and be a more positive Jacksonville."
Gowin's intention is for the restaurant to open in the Landmark no later than April 19 with the same "good authentic home cooking."
However, he said he sees an official kick off coming with the Tomato Fest in June.
At that time, the restaurant will add in music, staff and weekend hours, Gowin said.
He said Sadler's Kitchen will ultimately hire six to 10 additional employees -- giving a boost to the Jacksonville economy -- and students in the hospitality program will have an opportunity to work for him.
Moving into the Landmark also will have an impact on tourism because people will want to see the historic building and what Lon Morris has to offer, Gowin said.
While the move will have an impact on the economy and tourism in Jacksonville, he said it also makes sense because of his family's connection with Lon Morris.
Gowin, his parents, grandparents, uncle, aunt and brother all attended the college.
"Without Lon Morris, the Sadler family would not be in Jacksonville. My grandfather, (Elton "Monk" Sadler), in the 1930s, came to Lon Morris on a football scholarship and met my grandmother, who was from Jacksonville," Gowin said.
He said the college loaned his grandfather money at several stages in his business career and, at the time, the college did its endowment by investing in students and past students.
Thanks to Lon Morris, Sadler's Kitchen opened in 1943. The restaurant closed in 1980 and then reopened in 1995.
"One of my favorite cooks who ever worked for me is someone I grew up with and was one of the cooks for my grandparents," Gowin said.
He added, "We've just had a huge connection with that college my whole life. I view it (moving to the Landmark) as Lon Morris gave my family a start in the hospitality business and in the end, I'm helping them put together a start to this new program."
LMC President Dr. Miles McCall said the college is equally pleased about Sadler's Kitchen moving into the Landmark and the hospitality program, which is set to begin in the fall.
"We know they have a rich history in serving the community well … We think it'll be exciting in the end not only for the Jacksonville community and our students, but also for East Texas," he said.
McCall said the Landmark will give LMC a downtown presence and the opportunity to become better community partners.
"I think over time, we'll have a reputation of having a certain series each year, maybe a music series," he said.
"It gives our students a place to become involved and a venue and to attract local folks who are interested in the arts."
McCall noted that Lon Morris will also most likely add continuing education courses at some point.
Gowin said he is optimistic, no matter what the future holds.
"I've always had my eye on the Landmark. It's a beautiful property, (and) I've always wanted to be there. Who would have thought at the end of the day I'd be going over there. It's a great relationship and a great opportunity," he said.
"It's going to work out beautifully."
Hernandez said he is looking forward to Sadler's Kitchen opening at its new location.
"My curiosity is going to get to me," he said. "I am going to want to go there and check things out. People around here are excited about it."