The renovation of an old mill transforms an area along the Finley River
OZARK, MO. – The original mill sitting on the banks of the Finley River in Ozark, Missouri, was constructed in 1833. While the historic landmark has passed through a number of hands over the years, it was purchased in 1993 by the Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris. His daughter, Megan Stack, came on board to help create the vision Johnny had for a riverfront restaurant and surrounding paradise marking the edge of the historic town of Ozark, Mo. With a grandfather who once worked as a miller in the town of Willard, Mo., this particular mill held a special interest for Morris and his daughter.
In 2018, the mill was physically moved back from its original location along the banks of the Finley River, in order to avoid flooding, which was a common occurrence in years past. Thus, a new foundation was erected, along with heavy-duty flood doors complete with secure, water-tight seals along the base of each basement door of the mill’s gigantic footprint.
There are several current features of Finley Farms, promising even more to come in a future vision. The historic working Ozark Mill has been trans-formed to The Ozark Mill, a family-friendly restaurant which opened in September 2021. The restaurant and bar occupy the main floor, along with The General Store, outfitting local pottery pieces, kitchen gadgets, and other unique entertaining goods for purchase.
The restaurant boasts a comfortable and open dining experience. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer a breathtaking view of the Finley River, specifically the gorgeous flowing mill pond dam, just mere feet from where guests can relax and enjoy a fresh cocktail or warm appetizer made with uniquely home-grown ingredients from the farm, conveniently located on-site. Guests can also opt to sit outside on the expansive patio overlooking the gorgeous falls that define the popular mill pond dam. The sight is most certainly one to behold and the food and beverages offer a strict sensory competition between the taste buds and relaxing eye and ear candy of the flowing river in the not-so-far distance.
Below the family restaurant, in the basement of the mill, is a more adult-friendly, fine-dining establishment, The Garrison, which opened July 1. They offer fine cocktails as well as uniquely flavored cuisine, such as steak, seafood, and even Bison Tartare.
The Garrison pays sentimental homage to the historic Riverside Inn, which was decommissioned in 2009 due to several devastating floods. Morris and his daughter recall numerous family functions at The Riverside Inn, which also holds a special place in the hearts of the city of Ozark and the surrounding community.
Also in the lower level of the mill is the Riverside Room, which holds up to 150 people. Beginning this fall the basement will be the location for The History Tour, which will share the stories of personalities and traditions of the surrounding Ozarks. These tours will showcase the early stages of the mill to its modern-day use.
Just a hop, skip and jump away is the The Farm, which supplies the restaurant(s) and coffee shop with the uniquely delicious seasonal food selections offered. The farm boasts two resident farmers, Liesel McCleary and Brendan Sinclair, who work closely with the Ozark Mill Restaurant’s executive chef Kevin Korman, to create a welcome blend of seasonally delicious and uniquely Ozarkian dining experiences.
The Workshop, a coffee venue, offers several hands-on workshops, from picking fresh-grown wildflowers and learning how to cut the stems and make beautiful bouquets to visiting the beehives and getting a lesson in the queen bee and how her minions produce the liquid gold. Other classes/workshops include learning how to make fresh pasta, tours of the farm and what is currently growing with each new season, cooking classes, cocktail classes, trellis gardening/farming classes and the presently popular summer sangria class. The venue also houses a mushroom yard, complete with several strains of shiitake mushrooms used for unique dishes in The Ozark Mill restaurant.
The Workshop also brews fresh Copper Canyon coffee, a locally-sourced brand of coffee found just outside of Ozark, Mo., and homemade pastries to flatter any coffee drinker’s tenderly distinguished palate.
Sitting at the base of the Finley River, there is a gorgeous open-air wedding chapel made from reclaimed wooden materials.
Due to the open air of the chapel, guests can enjoy the beautiful outdoor view surrounding them, along with the sounds of rushing water, birds chirping, and jovial laughter coming from the mill and coffee shop in the distance. It is the perfect place for a spring, summer, or fall wedding in the heart of the Ozarks. Guests are provided a one-day wedding coordinator, along with chairs for the chapel service, and the option of a delectable catering menu sure to please even the pickiest of wed-ding guests’ palates.
What does the future hold for Finley Farms and The Ozark Mill? Phase Three offers the expansion of the venue to include overnight accommodations, outdoor scenic walking trails along the river, and even a beer brewery. There is truly something of interest to everyone in the Ozarks at this new, yet fully steeped in history, nature-friendly venue in Ozark, Mo.
When asked about her favorite part of this amazing adventure, Dayle Duggins, marketing manager for Finley Farms said: “There’s less than 1,000 feet from farm-to-fork, and that makes our property really unique and something worth checking out in the heart of the Ozarks.”