HANSON — The Old Hitching Post restaurant, once featured on celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” reality TV show in 2012 — and a popular gathering and dining destination in town since opening in the 1950s — is changing hands.
Owners Andrea and Sprio Garnavos officially bought the restaurant from her father Tom Kessaris in 2014. Kessaris bought the business in 2005. Now they are selling it to Lori and Jason Cook of Pembroke, who also have a strong business legacy in Hanson and the area. The Cooks plan to keep the Hitching Post name.
“It’s been a really good 17 strong years,” Garnavos said. “It’s been home to us. We’ve made so many friends. I thank the community — Hanson, all the surrounding towns — we’ve had a really good run, and these two are going to have a great run.”
The Select Board, on Tuesday, Aug. 9 approved an application to transfer the on-premises restaurant and alcoholic beverages license from the Old Hitching Post, 48 Spring St., to Jason Cook said the situation in which Garnavos is parting with the restaurant — all employees are staying — made the smooth transition possible.
Garnavos said the restaurant is in the process of being sold to the Cooks, which Garnavos expected to be complete within 10 days. The Cooks are the joint owners of Somewhere Else Tavern in Pembroke. Lori Cook owns the Fork in the Road Deli in Bryantville.
“Andrea is excited to hand over the reins to us because she things we are a really good fit for it, and we feel the same way,” said Jason Cook, who will manage the Hitching Post. “We’re excited to take over and be more of a part of Hanson.
“What she has set up for us is just a fluid transition, because she’s already done the homework and we’re grateful,” Lori Cook said. “We probably wouldn’t have undertaken it if it wasn’t for her.”
“Amazing,” Jason Cook added.
“I’m so happy for you guys,” Garnavos said. “We’re all so happy we’re together.”
“Let’s go have a drink,” Lori Cook said as they exchanged compliments after the board had voted.
“You’ve gotten back what you’ve put out there, and these guys have, too,” Select Board Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett. “It’s a love-fest with you guys and it’s great.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Select Board member Joe Weeks said to Garnavos. “You’re an amazing family legacy, so it’s really sad to see you go, but I’m really enthusiastic about a great transfer.”
Lori Cook said financing has been approved for the purchase, but there are a “few more pieces” to finalize in the transaction.
“We are happy to go back to the Hitching Post, I worked there many years ago,” Lori said. “This will be a new endeavor for Jason, but we’re Hanson residents and we’re excited about this new branch in our tree.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the Cooks and Garnavos have been great community partners through their businesses already both in Hanson and in Pembroke.
“I’m just thrilled that the business is going to continue, that we have [new] owners who are responsible and have had a long record in other communities and within our own community, of doing business,” she said. “We welcome you as business owners to Hanson. We’re thrilled about it.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said she received an email from the Conservation Agent, seeking to ensure that the board lets the new owners know they have to maintain an occupied residential apartment on the Hitching Post site in accordance with the original ZBA approval of the restaurant. The Conservation Commission also has a perpetual condition that the catch basin at the end of the parking area has to be cleaned once a year, reporting the completion of that to the commission.
He also noted the commission has not yet received a certificate of compliance for the septic repair at the location “and it would behoove the owners to record it.”
“I’m just passing that on,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. Garnavos said that certificate of compliance has already been recorded, prompting FitzGerald-Kemmett to suggest they loop back to make sure the Board of Health and the Conservation agent now have that information.
Lori Cook has owned A Fork in the Road since 2005, surviving both the great recession that began in 2008 as well as the COVID pandemic.
“That was interesting, but we made lots of friends in the community that way,” she said of doing business amid the recession. “We all helped each other, that’s part of the business structure in our company.”
She also owns Somewhere Else Tavern on Route 27 with Jason, who has owned AB Tent Rental, in business for 35 years, and his mother has lived in Hanson for more than 40 years.
“We’re always happy to be involved in anything that’s going on in the town,” he said. “The fire department, the police department are always welcome at Lori’s place or our place for lunch.”
He has supported the DARE program with free tents for the last few years.
“We always like to help and be part of,” he said noting the new venture will be a little different as he takes on a management role at the Hitching Post.
Starting as a small coffee shop in the 1950’s, the Hitching Post has grown, after many renovations and expansions, to a full service restaurant and tavern.