It seems like Sam Gross is always thinking two steps ahead.

For example, Gross has his hands full running his successful Loggers Tap House restaurant in Roseburg and planning a second location in Winston. But if that wasn’t enough, Gross is also scouting locations for a new Loggers Tap House to occupy when the lease in his Roseburg restaurant ends at the end of next year.

The heavy lifting now surrounds the opening of the Winston restaurant. It will be located in a 75-year-old building, located in the first block of Northeast Main Street where it intersects with Highway 42, that has sat vacant for years. The remodel of that building, which will also house five other businesses, entails basically rebuilding it from the ground up.

Loggers Tap House will take up the biggest chunk, spreading out over nearly 4,000 square feet, plus a patio behind the building, which will actually become the entrance. The new spot should hold 100 people comfortably, Gross said.

Plans call for about a half-dozen large TVs, a high ceiling and a wall featuring a gas fireplace with the Loggers Tap House above it. Gross calls it the Instagram Wall.

“You know, the place where everyone takes their selfies,” he said. “This place has been empty forever, but it’s going to be beautiful when it’s done.”

Gross said he hopes to open by year’s end.

“We were approached by the owners of the building to be their anchor tenant,” he said. “I think it is a great location, at the intersection of two highways. It is very busy. And the building is being completely remodeled so we have an opportunity to design it to truly meet the needs of our customers.”

Gross opened Loggers Pizza in 2009 at 1350 NE Stephens St. in Roseburg. In 2013 he leased the old Beef N Brew building at 2060 NW Stewart Parkway and opened Loggers Tap House — named after the three dozen beers and ciders on tap.

The Winston restaurant will be a cross between the original Loggers Pizza and the current Loggers Tap House, Gross said.

“The menu will be reduced and the service model will be simplified to make it super efficient to run, and fast and convenient for both the dine-in and to go customers,” he said. “We’ll be focusing on pizza, wings and beer in a relaxed and fun environment. We’re trying to create the perfect business model that we can duplicate across the state in the years to come.”

Bev Heyer, principal broker and property manager with Safari Properties Investments, is one of the driving forces behind The Elephant’s Walk project.

Heyer said she is a customer at the Loggers Tap House in Roseburg and is a big fan both of the restaurant and the way Gross conducts his business.

“I personally contacted Sam a little over a year ago and I thought he’d make a good tenant,” Heyer said. “He helps with business entrepreneurs, and we thought it would be a good fit. Sam really knows his business.”

For years the property — known as The Elephant’s Walk, giving a nod to the nearby Wildlife Safari — was owned by a group of about 20 investors under the name Winston Core Inititial Investors, LLC. But the group just couldn’t make a go of the property on their own, so they sold a 51% stake to Safari Properties Investments.

Between that backing and the money the initial investors had put up, the renovation has become a reality. The cinderblock building covers more than 9,500 square feet total. Other businesses that are there or will opening include a beauty salon, a tattoo shop, a catering service and a coffee shop. There are also six apartments on the second floor of part of the building.

A better community

Cassie May is the managing partner and head roaster at Safari Roasters, which will be one of Gross’ business neighbors on The Elephant Walk. May said she had been trying to open a coffee shop in Roseburg for six years but never found the right opportunity. Like Gross, May was contacted by those involved with the project, who asked if she would be interested.

May jumped at the opportunity.

“I grew up in Green so Winston is like home for me,” she said. “It feels really good to be a part of this. I really want to give back to my community.”

May said she plans to start a program where 30% of proceeds go towards a local group in town, such as the Douglas High School music program.

“I think this is going to bring more revenue to the area, which it so desperately needs,” May said. “I’m very happy to be a part of that revitalization and to help the community. I’m excited to get started.”

Heyer, who has lived in Winston for 20 years and been in real estate in the area for 14 years, also said she sees The Elephant Walk as a catalyst for the growth of Winston. One way to do that is to capture some of the more than 200,000 people who visit Wildlife Safari each year.

“When they leave they go to Roseburg and elsewhere. We want to get a piece of that and show people what we’re about, and everything Winston has to offer,” Heyer said. “And we aren’t just going to stop with this. Our goal is to make this a better community and keep lifting the bar.”

A big part of that effort surrounds Gross. In addition to running a successful restaurant, he also is associated with the local Small Business Development Center, where he helps entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Gross said he hopes to use that background and those connections as he looks to the end of next year, when his lease at the Roseburg restaurant is up.

His plans are ambitious: he wants to construct a steel-frame building from the ground up and fill it with a food park, featuring a number of other food establishments sharing the space. Gross said he got the idea after visiting a food park in Salem that has 18 food carts.

One version he is considering would span 22,000 square feet and house 11 eateries; a smaller version he is looking at would be about half that size.

Gross said he has scouted three possible locations: a site on Diamond Lake Boulevard, a site near the Winchester Dam, and the site of the old Safeway in downtown Roseburg.

“We would put a building right in the footprint where the old Safeway was,” he said, adding that there is room for 70 parking spots there.

While Gross is flipping ideas in his head about that possible venture, he has his hands full with more immediate concerns — namely, navigating COVID-19 at his Roseburg location and overseeing the renovation and opening of the Winston restaurant.

So far, somehow, things are going well.

“Loggers is busier than ever, even with COVID,” Gross said. “And we have strong brand recognition in Winston, so I’m feeling good about the expansion there.”

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You have no ingress/egress at that location; which is why everything else that was there has closed....

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