The Farnhamville Betterment Inc. was formed 18 years ago to save an old building from going unused. Through the dedication of numerous volunteers, the vacant space was kept in good shape and turned into a restaurant.
Over the past couple years they did it again.
“I kind of spearheaded that because, my only reason for doing this was I didn’t want to see another building sitting empty,” said Doug Johnson.
Johnson is now president of the FBI — that’s Farnhamville Betterment, Inc. — and was part of the group which purchased the building the first time.
“We really didn’t have a restaurant in town at the time,” Johnson said. “It was a grocery store before. We purchased it, and converted it into a restaurant bar then.”
The group leased Tony’s Steakhouse for seven or eight years, he said, before the owner decided to buy it from them.
“He owned it for seven or eight years, and then he sold everything in the building. The coolers, everything. There was nothing left in the building,” Johnson said. “It sat here for six months after he sold it, then we turned around and bought it back from him.”
Frank Morgan was mayor when the group formed 18 years ago, and also took charge of the FBI. He’s still on that committee, but didn’t want to lead the effort a second time, Johnson said.
“So Reggie Kopecky and I kind of spearheaded getting it going again, with many other volunteers,” said Johnson.
He’s not sure how many ended up helping.
“One volunteer hung the ceiling tile. We had the ceiling tile donated,” he said. “These booths we bought at an auction. … About the only thing that was in here was the actual bar. I bought that on the auction for $5.”
While buying those booths, Johnson met Randy Russell, owner of the Lucky Pig in Ogden, who agreed to lease the Farnhamville restaurant and create a second Lucky Pig.
Johnson isn’t sure what the secret to their success was 18 years ago.
“Just dumb luck I guess. I don’t know. It was a needed thing at the time,” he said. “And then, 18 years ago, there were quite a few small businesses still in town. There were probably 25, 30 businesses in town. How many would there be now? Probably fewer than 10 in town now, I bet.”
Johnson owns the car wash in town, and said he saw a drop in his own business after Tony’s disappeared.
“And that’s part of the reason I kind of wanted to keep the business in town,” he said. “People would drive in, wash their car, stop in and have supper at Tony’s.”
Johnson grew up outside of town, and graduated from high school in Gowrie in 1980. After college he went to work at a seed company in Slater for six years, before moving back to farm with his brother, David.
“We still farm together today. We’re fairly small farmers, so I have quite a bit of time on my hands,” Johnson said. “I volunteer for quite a few other organizations.”
Johnson is part of the Gowrie Growth Group, and 19 years ago founded a bike ride called the Firecracker 40.
“Me and another guy. He helped me the first year and then he moved away, so pretty much I’ve been organizing the bike ride for the last — this will be our 19th year.”
He also is the treasurer for the LLC that owns the Gowrie golf course.
FBI is separate from the Farnhamville Betterment Committee which runs Old Settlers’ Day and other events in town. Johnson said he helps out a bit with settlers’ day, but he’s not on that committee.
There is one other project which he said Mayor Rita Kail has sort of “roped him into” doing.
“Betterment Inc took on more debt than we thought we’d have to for this place,” Johnson said. “Rita came up with, we’re going to have a kiss the pig contest. I’m in charge of that.
“We’re trying to find five people in town that would be willing to step up and say they’ll be one of the contestants. Then everybody has to buy a ticket for who they want to see kiss a pig,” he explained. “Rita told me I’ll be one of the contestants.”