More than 10 months after a late-night fire damaged Dearman’s restaurant, the beloved burger joint in the Bocage Village Shopping Center remains under reconstruction with no opening date in sight.
Construction and permitting delays have slowed the rebuilding process, which owner David Van Gelder had hoped several months ago would be completed by Thanksgiving at the earliest and the Christmas holidays at the latest.
“It’s killing me,” he says. “Especially at this time of year. So many families come in when grandparents are in town visiting and kids are off school.”
Despite the delays, Van Gelder says the project is proceeding and that once the holidays are over work should wrap up relatively quickly. He is hesitant to predict an opening date, however.
“I can’t give a date because even once it’s completed—and we could get it done by mid-January—it might take a month to get it inspected,” he says. “In a perfect world it could be open by the end of January, but realistically I don’t see that happening.”
For tenants in the shopping center, the reopening can’t come soon enough. Several of the small retailers say holiday shopping crowds have been lighter this season without the popular diner to draw shoppers to the retail strip.
“It has really affected our walk-through traffic,” says Stacey Rodriguez, owner of Paper n’ Things. “Dearman’s would always bring in big crowds during the holidays. As a small shop owner it’s already hard enough to compete against internet shopping and free shipping.”
Ruffles N Britches owner Ronald Ray, whose children’s clothing store is adjacent to Dearman’s, is also feeling the restaurant’s absence.
“It always helps to have a tenant that pulls traffic into the center, and it’s been a little light since he’s been gone,” Rays says. “But I think it’s been a little light because of retail in general. We’re hanging on, but it’s hard.”