GRAY —  Cole Farms is closing Jan. 22 for eight weeks for renovations that owner Bradley Pollard said will “reinvent” the 67-year-old restaurant to make it more of a draw for a younger crowd.

“The alternative would be closing up. We don’t want to do that,” Pollard said.

Changes will include renovating the interior, redesigning the kitchen and adding a brick pizza oven and small market. Parts of the building are over 60 years old and will be updated. 

The 22,000-square-foot building is too large, and a 300-seat restaurant is no longer necessary, Pollard said.

“They don’t build restaurants this size anymore like we used to. We needed to scale back for various reasons. We’re working out of two kitchens, there are lots of duplications, the efficiencies were going away,” he said.

The decor and lighting will change, but the restaurant will retain its “rustic, comfortable feel,” he said.

The restaurant will also introduce new menu items, which are still in the works. In addition to brick oven pizza, the restaurant will “be adding things that appeal to today’s generation.”

Cole Farms has never before closed for an extended period in its decades as a popular family restaurant, said Pollard, whose mother was a Cole and passed the business down to him.

He said the changes are not the result of bad business but stem from a desire to prepare for the future. 

A press release announcing the renovations says, “The time is now to grab onto some of these new opportunities that are blowing our way.”

The restaurant’s customer base is changing, Pollard said, as many of its elderly patrons have either passed away or spend their winters in warmer climates.

“Kids today don’t gravitate to a place like this like they did years ago. Times have changed. If there’s a time to reinvent ourselves, this is it. This is the reinventing of Cole Farms,” he said. 

Pollard understands that not all customers will be pleased with the changes. He feels nostalgia for the restaurant, saying “it’s been my life.” But the changes are designed to keep the restaurant in business, he said.

He hopes customers will embrace the renovations, which he views as “a change that I feel is positive that maybe sets us up for more of a future that’s conducive to what our society wants.”

March 15 is the scheduled reopening date.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected] 

Beginning Jan. 22, Cole Farms restaurant will close for eight weeks for renovations. 

Changes will include renovating the interior of the building and redesigning the kitchen.