Jim Ferrell has a keen interest in what the future holds, but also a healthy respect for the past and where he's been: From a little sub shop across from campus that he opened in 1972 with two college friends, David Kresak and Allen Powell, to a major restaurateur in Bowling Green today.
"You know, they left the business after a year, but I still keep in touch with both and we're good friends," Ferrell says. "Dave owns a hair salon and I go to Cleveland each year to celebrate his birthday. And Allen is a computer genius and lives in Powell outside of Columbus."
Fast forward to 1997 when Ferrell purchased Kaufman's Restaurant, later changing the name to SamB's but deciding to leave the Kaufman's large sign painted on the side of the brick building. The same sign adorns the huge outdoor wall today, clearly visible to passers-by on Main Street.
"Honestly, I didn't originally want to spend the money to redo the sign, but I also wanted to honor Kaufman's past," Ferrell says of the restaurant that opened in 1950. "Kaufman's was the place in Bowling Green for a long time. I had no problem sharing the limelight with a historical restaurant in town. I looked to embrace the historic connection."
That he's done. Today, 11 years after Ferrell moved the SamB's name and menu down the street, the restaurant has picked up where Kaufman's left off – as a go-to fine dining restaurant in downtown Bowling Green.
SamB's won two awards in the annual Best of BG awards contest – "Best Seafood" restaurant and "Best Place to be Spoiled by Your Parents." The awards were voted on by 500 BGSU student respondents.
How Ferrell and SamB's got to its current spot at 163 S. Main St. is a story of taking risks, perseverance and good food.
A native of Mount Royal, N.J., Ferrell arrived in BG in 1968 to attend college. He never left. By the time he was a senior, he owned SamB's, a popular sandwich shop at 107 State St. that catered to the college crowd of the 1970s. "It wasn't for my partners, and I wasn't sure it was for me," Ferrell says, "but I just stuck with it. I came into some money through an insurance settlement and I was working all the time. I felt like I had the world by the tail."
SamB's began with a walk-up window, no table service, and 13 sub sandwiches on the menu "way before Subway," Ferrell says. It wasn't long before lots of BGSU students were talking about heading over to SamB's.