The owner of multiple Eastern Market staples is putting his stamp on yet another neighborhood business. This spring, Frank’s Deli & Grill proprietor Frank Gjoka will open Farmer Frank’s Restaurant inside the longtime Farmer’s Restaurant building at the corner of Market Street and Adelaide.
The popular Farmer’s Restaurant closed last March after owner Gavrill Fermanis sold the business and the neighboring buildings including Eastern Market Antiques to FIRM Real Estate owner Sanford Nelson. Fermanis decided to retire shortly after the sale and vacated the property. Eastern Market Antiques has since relocated to a new building in the market.
Gjoka has worked in the neighborhood for 25 years and has invested significantly in businesses in the bustling food district. In addition to Frank’s Deli, he owns Frank’s Meat & Produce and Wigleys Wholesale Meats. When Farmer’s abruptly closed last year, Gjoka hired some of the longtime employees and reached out to FIRM about leasing the restaurant space.
The overall vision, Gjoka tells Eater, is to create an all-day brunch restaurant in the spirit of Farmer’s using meat and produce sourced from the market. He’s tapped master chef Shawn Loving to consult on the menu.
The restaurant is currently is the final stretch of renovation and has undergone significant updates to get up to code. Gjoka’s team removed the drop ceilings. The interior features a mixture of brick, wood paneling, tile, and stone. Some of the building’s windows that were previously bricked in have been opened up to allow more light into the dining room.
When it’s complete, the 4,600-square-foot restaurant will seat between 100 and 120 people with a full bar area. Gjoka expects to open from 6:30 to 4 p.m. daily and eventually plans to expand into dinner service. Gjoka intends to staff the restaurant with some former Farmer’s employees.
“I think the big thing for us is that he’s been in Eastern market for so long,” Nelson says. “Whenever we have an opportunity to do something with people that have been in the neighborhood a long time — whether they’re looking to expand or they need new space or more space — we’re always going to jump at that opportunity.”
FIRM amassed significant real estate holdings in Eastern Market over the last several years, creating tensions in the market and sparking concerns that the face of the district might change for the worse. The management company owns buildings that house Supino and the former Russell Street Deli. Mike’s Coney Island also recently shuttered, with the owner aiming to open a different store nearby on Russell Street.
On Sunday, Eastern Market Seafood confirmed plans to close as the owners prepared for retirement, having sold to FIRM. Nelson says he intends to find a new seafood market tenant and possibly a restaurant to fill the space. Down the block, Jose’s Tacos is imminently opening its second and largest location in a building owned by Firm. The grand opening is expected to take place in March, pending a business license.
Despite significant public criticism directed at FIRM in the past year, Gjoka says he has had a good relationship with the Nelson family. “I’m very happy to work with them — very, very happy,” he says.