HORIZON WEST When you think of Ford’s Garage — the newest restaurant slated to join the Hamlin community — imagine a burger-and-beer joint combined with a 1920s service-station ambiance.
Think of vintage Ford Model A’s and Model T’s in and around the restaurant, a penny wall by the bar and an overall atmosphere catered to the ultimate Ford fan.
The restaurant chain launched in 2012 in Fort Myers, a place where Henry Ford was known to hang out. Six other locations in Florida and Michigan have cropped up since then, and the Hamlin location will make the seventh.
While the brickwork, dark colors, wood accents and hand-hammered copper bar tops are all standard features, Marc Brown — president of 23 Restaurant Services, which manages Ford’s Garage operations — said the company likes to make each establishment just a little different from the others.
“We try to make each restaurant a little bit unique,” Brown said. “For us, it’s about appealing to all five senses. It goes to what you see, smell, hear, what your eyes are drawn to and the overall energy level. It starts with the cars that we bring in. Typically a location has anywhere from four to six vintage vehicles. All tables and bar tops are custom made. We do a penny wall behind our taps and have LED lighting; it all comes together to make a pretty unique place.”
Ford’s Garage is focused on high-quality ingredients, Brown said, and is best known for its gourmet burgers. It also features a mac-and-cheese bar and incorporates local craft beers from each community it is planted in. With 40 beers on tap and another 150 — coined the Ford F150 Beer List — by the bottle, Ford’s Garage has branded itself as a burger-and-beer joint of which Henry Ford himself would be proud.
“One thing we do to make our concept different is we focus a lot on the guest experience, in addition to what you can taste,” Brown said. “We put a lot into the buildout of our restaurants. We try to do it in a way that represents the innovation of Ford Motor Company and represents their history well.”
Ford’s Garage is an official Ford Motor Company licensee, even down to the custom-stamped burger buns. From the first day of business at the original Fort Myers location, the buns were stamped in house with a branding iron. They are now stamped in a bakery and toasted at the restaurant, but the tradition continues as the brand grows.
Brown estimates the Hamlin location should be open for business by June or July 2018. The hiring process will begin about six weeks before opening, and those interested can apply on the restaurant’s website, fordsgarageusa.com.
“We knew we wanted to make it to the Orlando market, and for us with our brand, we want to be associated with innovative new things going on,” Brown said. “When we saw the vision for what Hamlin was going to become it was exciting for us to come into that market. I think right off the bat we (us and the developers) took an interest in what each other was doing, and we were able to get a really phenomenal site on the property.
“The excitement that we have over coming to Orlando is bringing an energy to our company right now,” Brown said.