SamB’s is being sold to a familiar face.
Jim Ferrell, who is the owner of the popular downtown Bowling Green restaurant, is selling SamB’s to George Strata — who also owns a very trendy eatery down the street.
Strata, who owns Beckett’s, is purchasing SamB’s from Ferrell, who is retiring after 50 years in the restaurant business. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because the two switched restaurant locations in 2021: Beckett’s Burger bar moved from 146 N. Main St. and SamB’s moved from 163 S. Main St.
“Business has been great at both locations and we’re just hoping to maintain that,” Strata said. “As long a we’re putting out great food with great service and the ambiance is nice, I think that the community will support us.”
It’s not surprising that Strata is buying SamB’s. The two men have a long history together, most recently with them switching restaurant locations in 2021.
Ferrell, a native of New Jersey, came to Ohio in 1968 to attend Bowling Green State University. The first SamB’s, a sub shop, opened in Bowling Green on March 6, 1972 on East Wooster Street.
In 1985, he took a step away from the restaurant business, then re-opened SamB’s at 146 N. Main St. in April 1988.
He purchased the South Main Street property, which is now Beckett’s, in 1997. Ferrell ran it as Kaufman’s until 2002. He then opened SamB’s on South Main.
In May 2021, Ferrell and George Strata announced they were switching locations of Beckett’s Burger Bar, 146 N. Main St., and SamB’s Restaurant, 163 S. Main St.
“In 2021, we decided that it was time for Beckett’s to expand its location and reach, and to get into a bigger location,” Strata said. “Jim and I came up with the idea — when he was trying to figure out a retirement plan and wanted to slow down.”
While Beckett’s opened up right away on South Main, Ferrell gutted the North Main space. The new SamB’s, which was originally located in the same space on North Main in the 1980s, opened in fall 2021.
There won’t be many changes at SamB’s — know for its fresh fish, crab cakes and steaks — with Strata at the helm.
“We’re still going to be serving up the same great food, and scratch kitchen. Everything’s going to be fresh,” he said. “Nothing’s going to change majorly. I’m sure we’ll so some revamps of menus, but the overall nuts and bolts of what they’ve been doing the last year is going to remain the same.”
Strata has continued to beef up the Beckett’s business since it opened in the SamB’s space in 2007, then moved to the larger location on South Main in 2021.
Last year, he transformed the back area of Beckett’s into the Barrel Room, which specializes in craft cocktails and bourbon.
Strata was once a bartender at Kaufman’s in the 1990s.
Ferrell was a mentor to Strata.
“There’s a lot of things I’ve learned from him over the years,” Strata said. “I learned a lot about how he tries to create and do things.”
Strata, who is from Sandusky, has been in the restaurant business since he was 14 years old. He graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1996 with a sociology degree.
He and his wife, Amy, who teaches special education at Bowling Green Middle School, have four children and one grandchild.
(Sentinel-Tribune multi-media journalist J.D. Pooley did the interviews for this story.)