From the moment that Farmhaus opened its doors on Broad Street in downtown Augusta almost three years ago, the trendy, locally owned hamburger restaurant has worked hard to develop a loyal and deeply devoted fan base.
Clearly, attention to detail has been the key to Farmhaus’ success.
Whether it’s the careful selection of local, organic ingredients for its burgers, hot dogs, salads and sides or the restaurant’s excellent customer service even on its busiest days, Farmhaus has earned an outstanding reputation as one of the best places to grab a bite in downtown Augusta.
That same success is about to spread into Columbia County.
“We love downtown, but we are ready to branch out a little bit,” said Sean Wight, owner of Farmhaus. “So, we are opening a new location near Gander Mountain, right up on the corner of Mason McKnight Parkway and Wheeler Road. We should open sometime early in the New Year. Hopefully, before Masters Week.”
Wight, who also owns Craft & Vine and Frog Hollow Tavern in downtown Augusta, said while his customers enjoy eating at the Broad Street location, he has received a lot of requests over the years to open a second Farmhaus in Columbia County.
“Farmhaus has done so well downtown and a lot of people asked us to come out that way,” Wight said, referring to Columbia County. “We were thinking about it and a good opportunity came up at this location.”
The corner of Wheeler Road and Mason McKnight Parkway is ideal because it is surrounded by large neighborhoods and businesses in both Columbia and Richmond counties, Wight said.
“This location is right on the cusp of Richmond and Columbia counties and I just think the location is really good being centrally located near I-20. It is a busy area,” Wight said. “I mean, you have Doctors Hospital out there with all of the medical offices and there are a bunch of neighborhoods down Flowing Wells Road. I just see a lot of future growth in it.”
Of course, Farmhaus isn’t the first locally owned restaurant to expand into Columbia County.
Back in 2005, Pizza Joint owner Mike Schepis was one of the first downtown restaurant owners to open a new location in neighboring Columbia County.
Schepis chose the former Fat Man’s West store located at 4301 Washington Road in Evans to recreate Pizza Joint’s casual and eclectic atmosphere.
The downtown Augusta restaurant, which originally opened in 1996, quickly became popular for its pizzas, strombolis, calzones and sandwiches cooked on a traditional brick oven.
As a result of Pizza Joint’s success, Schepis opened two more locations in Aiken and Columbia, S.C.
The same year that Pizza Joint branched out into Columbia County, so did another long-time local favorite: Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar.
First opened back in 1983, Rhinehart’s rapidly became known throughout the Garden City for its “beyond casual” atmosphere that resembles more of a beach shack on Washington Road than a seafood restaurant in Augusta.
As more and more residents began moving into Columbia County, other restaurants began to take notice.
Kevin Goldsmith, owner of Takosushi, opened a new location in Columbia County at 1202 Town Park Lane next to the Marshall Family YMCA in 2008.
Takosushi began in Surrey Center more than 10 years ago featuring Goldsmith’s unique blend of southwestern and contemporary Asian dishes.
The restaurant also has popular locations in Columbia, Greenville and Aiken, S.C.
That same year, in 2008, Mellow Mushroom local franchise owner Shawn Ledford opened up his second restaurant at 4348 Washington Road following the booming success of his Broad Street location.
In 1974, Mellow Mushroom was created by three college students in Atlanta interested in starting a restaurant featuring “classic southern pizza.” These days, the franchise exists in 18 states with more than 140 stores.
“We are a franchise, but we are not your cookie-cutter franchise,” Ledford recently told the Metro Spirit. “We still have personality and take on the local community.”
While both of his Mellow Mushroom restaurants in downtown Augusta and Evans have similar menus, they definitely have different decor styles honoring both communities.
One aspect that the two restaurants have in common is Ledford has been able to duplicate his success at both locations. In fact, Ledford opened his third Mellow Mushroom in Aiken just last year.
But, for him, it all started in downtown Augusta on Broad Street.
“I know my business has grown every single year since we opened in 2003, so that’s saying a lot,” Ledford told the Metro Spirit. “There is no doubt about it. Downtown Augusta has been a good choice for us.”
As for Farmhaus, Wight said he has experienced nothing but success at his location on Broad Street.
“I knew we would do well, but I didn’t think we would do as well as we did,” Wight said. “We’ve consistently done double the volume that we thought we would. The demand for a locally sourced burger place was obviously there and we were very well received. I think I can continue that same success out there at the new location.”
However, the level success that Wight achieved did not just magically happen.
Prior to the downtown restaurant opening, Wight spent four months carefully choosing small, family farms for Farmhaus’ local beef and organic ingredients.
Wight took the restaurant’s slogan, “Beef Up Your Local Economy,” seriously in order to help support this region and provide his patrons with a quality product.
“I’ll be the first to admit, there is really nothing healthy about a burger,” Wight said, laughing. “But our burgers are about as healthy as you can get. We use quality local angus beef, our chicken is hormone and antibiotic free and all of our hotdogs are 100 percent beef with no antibiotics, hormones or preservatives. Our buns are from H&F Bread Company in Atlanta, so everything is locally sourced in the Southeast.”
The food is also always fresh and made to order, Wight said.
And Farmhaus doesn’t just offer a “typical” burger.
The restaurant’s menu features dry-aged double patty beef burgers with a variety of toppings. Choices on the menu include burgers such as “The Haus Burger” with smoked gouda cheese, grilled onions and whole grain mustard or the “Farmstyle” with a sunny side up local farm egg, heirloom smoked bacon, smoked gouda cheese and Duke’s mayo.
But Farmhaus also frequently features specials such as “The Bratwurst Burger” made with a pork shoulder patty, whole grain mustard, all-natural sauerkraut, house-made (also referred to as “Hausmade”) Titan Farms’ caraway pickles and sour cream served on a pumpernickel bun.
Or how about the “Farmhaus Steak Burger” made with a hearty half-pound New York Strip beef patty with lettuce, tomato, grilled sweet onion, aged cheddar, and house-made steak sauce on a brioche bun? Sounds pretty good.
“We make everything in-house,” he said. “All of our sauces, our french fries are twice fried and cut in house, our sweet potato tater tots are house-made and even our milkshakes are all organic.”
Those milkshakes have become a very popular item on Farmhaus’ menu, Wight said.
“The milkshakes are incredible and the boozy milkshakes have been a huge hit,” Wright said, explaining that Farmhaus offers an adult version of the regular milkshakes using liquor.
Farmhaus even features a new shake of the month to change up the menu.
The latest shake was called “The Peach Betty.” It was made with South Carolina peaches from Titan Farms, High Road Craft Ice Cream out of Marietta, Ga., and shortbread cookies. The “boozy” version contains Fruitland Augusta Peach Vodka.
Another special is the “Blackberry Crumble Shake” made with blackberries from Gurosik’s Berry Plantation in North Augusta, brown sugar honey crumble and High Road’s vanilla ice cream. The boozy version adds Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka.
“We get people coming in all the time to Farmhaus just to get one of those shakes for dessert after eating somewhere else,” Wight said. “In fact, I’ve seen people leaving Frog Hollow and say, ‘We are going down to Farmhaus to get one of your boozy shakes!’ And I’m like, ‘Cool.’ We try to make everybody happy. I like happy people.”
So, if you love the Farmhaus in downtown Augusta, don’t expect the new location out in Columbia County to be much different.
“The new location will be as similar as we can get it to the downtown location,” Wight said, adding that he is working closely with McKnight Construction Company to develop the new restaurant’s look. “We will have a big, outdoor-covered patio. I’m anticipating maybe a little bit more of a relaxed scene out at the patio at nighttime. We are going to do a live music series out there, which I think will be good for that location because there’s really nothing out in that area that offers that kind of atmosphere.”
The Columbia County restaurant will also showcase a full bar, much like the downtown location, Wight said.
“We will also have a full bar there with cocktails and craft beers,” he said. “We want the same setup with drink specials and different cocktails.”
There are rumors that a Starbucks is also expected to locate in the same complex as this new Farmhaus in Columbia County, but Wight said he didn’t want to speculate about what may or may not be developed in that area.
“I really don’t to speak for the other possibilities because I don’t know if they are locked down 100 percent or not,” Wight said. “But I have heard that there are a few other tenants in that location.”
No matter what other businesses locate along Mason McKnight Parkway near Wheeler Road, Wight says he is excited over the new opportunity and expansion of Farmhaus into Columbia County.
He believes Farmhaus will provide residents with a good alternative to the many chain restaurants located in that area.
“Augusta loves a chain restaurant. I don’t get it sometimes,” Wight said, chuckling. “But Farmhaus has been successful because we keep our quality up better than chain restaurants. People know when they come into Farmhaus that it is going to be clean, the ingredients will be fresh and the food is going to be really good.”