In HearSway

Updates have been underway for months on the former home of El Vaquero, on the corner of Bennett Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Building owners Tom and Lora Gisler say a lease has not been signed, but the spot will remain a restaurant.

The building has remained vacant since El Vaquero closed in 2016. In 2021, real estate investors Tom and Lora Gisler took ownership of property from Frank Maser. It’s close to two other buildings they own — one across the street, which houses Southern Pines Brewing Co. on Pennsylvania and Berri Bowlful — and one next door, currently home to Wine & Design and Dapper Barbershop.

“I like the idea of having properties that butt up to each other, because it adds potential to development possibilities,” Tom said in 2021. The couple is also working on updates to the historic Princess Theatre on Broad Street.

Layers of paint under the building’s trim, which was removed in March.

The Gislers have since revamped the front porch, updated exterior lighting, completely renovated the kitchen, and more. Several projects remain ongoing.

The kitchen as it looked in March 2022.

Tom said early this month that he hopes the building will be complete in the first quarter of 2023, with the help of Bureau Builders and several other subcontractors. That includes installation of brick masonry by Patrick Kujawski; fabrication and installation of handrails by Creative Sparks; plumbing by Adam Harward; and HVAC work by B-Tech HVAC and electrical by JIMS Electric.

“The kitchen equipment has been moved into place and utilities are available now for us to have Advanced Mechanical come to check out the functionality of the kitchen equipment, since there were no utilities on when we took over the property,” he said.  

OK, So Who’s Moving In?

A tenant has not leased the space. However, Tom said there have been “ongoing conversations” with a tenant who “has an existing restaurant in Moore County that would like to expand to a Southern Pines location.”

Cue the drumroll — and stay tuned for updates.

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