NORTH FORK – Hundreds of visitors took advantage of the perfect weather last Saturday to stop in for a stroll through Old Town, and to meet new owner Jen McMillan.
Now renamed “Bandit Town”, this much-loved local landmark is entering a new chapter after being vacant for two decades.
Jen purchased the Western-themed property in December, and has been assessing the big job ahead of her since taking possession of the rustic venue.
“We’re still researching our plans for Bandit Town,” Jen says, “and we look forward to working with neighbors and County staff to find uses that benefit the community.”
The new moniker, Bandit Town, is linked to her funky vintage clothing line sold under the Bandit Brand name.
On Jan. 17 and 18, Jen held an open house for her friends and family. She welcomed locals to participate as guests and as helpers, and visitors came from far and wide, some flying in from the East Coast, others from L.A. and the Bay area. Many camped informally, bringing an interesting array of vintage vans and RVs.
“I’m so grateful for all the help and support the local community has given me,” says Jen. “I just want to thank everyone for all of their support, and I have gotten amazing feedback from so many people in town (and even Oakhurst) about the business they got from our crowd who came up.
“I also heard great stories about the many people who love old town and have so many memories there. I’m told that it brought a lot of people out and a lot of people together who hadn’t seen each other in years.
At Saturday’s Open House, North Fork residents and businesses pitched in to help; some were paid, some volunteered. Jim Quilter and Mehrdad Aminian led a crew to spruce up the property with quick repairs before the event. Janet and Winston Damme handled the sound system for entertainment, donated by Squirrel Cage Theatre Co., with a few local helpers.
Guests enjoyed Frank’s BBQ and Nancy’s Tacos, along with morning bakery treats from Roz Thrapp. Staff at North Fork Supermarket and other local businesses were happy with the extra revenue generated by the event, and many hope it will be just the first of many.
A few out-of-town businesses set up booths to display products including fragrances made from plants, trees, mosses and wild herbs; stained glass and jewelry; leather handbags, belts, jewelry and guitar straps – everything complementing the Western theme and Bandit Brand’s vintage clothing and gifts.
Visiting bands played folk, country and rock music in the saloon as a lively soundtrack for visitors strolling the grounds and enjoying a picnic on the deck.
Having languished in storage for years, carriages and buggies were brought out of the barn for display. The saloon sparkled with lights and music, and a cozy fire crackled in the huge stone fireplace.
Dozens of locals dropped by to see for themselves what’s next for Old Town. Wandering about, one could hear comments like: “It’s great seeing activity here again” or “I’ve never been here before, what an amazing place.”
Nothing is carved in stone as far as plans for the property at this point. Jen has a long way to go, working through the permitting process and deciding what will best serve the area in developing a business plan.
“Tons of townspeople have been here today and yesterday to volunteer and tell me about what they do,” says Jen, “and I can’t wait to incorporate their skills and talents into what we are doing.”
The overall tone from those visiting Bandit Town on Saturday was one of support and anticipation.
“This used to be such a wonderful place to spend a Saturday evening, or come for Sunday brunch,” said one guest. “We’re just thrilled to see things happening here again.”