The smell of barbecue is in the air along South Range Road.
The Smokehouse, a new restaurant owned by Matt Baird, opened at 5:30 a.m. today in the Greenford Bobcats Space Center, the former South Range Middle School at 7600 W. South Range Road.
“We have down-home country food,” said Baird, whose first restaurant at Diamond Back Golf Course in Canfield will stay open.
The Smokehouse has a full-service kitchen and a 200-seat dining area and will cater on- or off-site. Weekly dinner specials will include barbecue, smoked using cherry firewood, on Thursday; fried fish on Friday; and a buffet on Sunday.
The pork will come from pigs that Baird raises, and much of the beef will come from Schaefer Farms.
“We’re trying to promote locally grown agriculture,” Baird said.
And as he works to do that, Ed Schaefer Sr. — owner of Schaefer Farms — will continue to promote local businesses. Schaefer and his business partner, John Monroe, purchased the three old South Range school buildings at auction in 2010 and have transformed the schools into business incubators.
“When we purchased the building, we made an arrangement with South Range to keep a lot of the kitchen equipment. ... We’re really excited about having this here,” Schaefer said.
The restaurant employs 50 people and provides a close dining option in Greenford, instead of local residents driving to North Lima or Salem, he said.
Schaefer also hopes it will encourage even more businesses to locate in the center, which already houses a day care, computer business, an accounting office and Green Harvest Energy’s business office.
Baird said he has plans to use even more of the center’s space. A convenience store will be ready to open soon, and he would like to see a pizza shop and pasta manufacturer there.
The Smokehouse will open at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday. The restaurant will be open until at least 2 p.m. the first week or two and will eventually remain open until 9 p.m., Baird said, adding for the most up-to-date hours, people should check SmokehouseAtGreenford.com.
The growth of the center is extra special for Schaefer, who named it and the company, Greenford Bobcats LLC, for the former athletic team at the middle school he once attended.
“We wanted to help the community, and we’re preserving these buildings. It brings people together. People will come for the memories and stay for the food,” he said.