Mother-Daughter Mark 15 Years at Great Bay Oyster House

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Friday, January 4

Stan Christofferson’s vision lives on at the Great Bay Oyster House in downtown Greer.

Stan’s wife, Diane, and his daughter, Katie Gambrel, have made sure of that.

Stan passed away six years ago after a battle with cancer.

“He was very proud to be in downtown Greer and was excited when these buildings were for sale,” Diane recalled. “This was not our passion, but when he did get sick, we decided it was going to be something we needed to keep going with. So, mother and daughter picked up the pieces and the stress and the busyness, and we’ve made it work. But the biggest thing is we couldn’t have done it without people of Greer.”

The Great Bay Oyster House celebrated 15 years of serving the Greer community on New Year’s Eve.

The restaurant has become a fixture at its 109 East Poinsett Street location.

“We’re just very grateful; by the grace of God, we made it,” Diane said. “We’re also very excited about the hotel and the streetscape, and it might cause some confusion down here with traffic and parking, but we’re really ready to do anything for whoever wants to eat here. We have our own golf cart.”

“This is a casual, family restaurant,” she said. “We want to make people feel comfortable coming in here.”

When Great Bay first opened, the family was still painting and fixing the place, but the restaurant was slammed with people from wall to wall.

“Business was really great for about the first two years; then, the economy did a number on everybody,” Diane said. “When her dad got sick, a lot of people didn’t come out because they were sad coming in here. We just made it our own, so people are comfortable, a happy place.”

A very happy place at times.

“You met your husband in here,” Diane said to her daughter Katie Gambrel. “We’ve had many people meet in here and get married. We’ve had couples get married in here. It is a happy place.”

“A lot of our regulars have watched me have two kids,” Gambrel said. “It’s been a long time of doing this. It’s just like a big family.”

The Great Bay Oyster House has been a landmark in Greer despite a number of changes over the past 15 years.

“We revamped the whole menu,” Gambrel said of the time following her father’s passing. “It made it a lot more simple.”

“We were kind of scared that it would not be a good thing to do, but we did it,” she said. “We shut down for lunches, which was scary to do, since we were open for lunch since the beginning. I feel like it’s been a good thing. Doing less things on the menu has helped.”

The family previously had a Mexican restaurant, hibachi and a sushi restaurant, which is a private room today; although, the restaurant continues to serve 12 sushi rolls.

“That stays busy,” Gambrel said of the private room. “It made it a little bit more simple, so we wouldn’t be stressed all the time.”

“I could still be a mom,” she said. “I had a newborn baby when my dad died, so it was kind of the smart thing to do. The 12 rolls we have are great.”

“We had to simplify,” Christofferson said. “She had a little daughter then. We have another side of our life, not just work.”

While the mother and daughter team cut back their load, they have maintained dishes such as salmon, scallops, shrimp and grits, and a full service bar with around 12 to 13 employees.

“We’ve just been very fortunate, very blessed, that people that work for us are loyal,” Christofferson said.

The Christoffersons moved to the area 21 years ago.

“I picked it off a map years ago,” Christofferson said. “I thought it sounded charming. It just all sort of worked out from there. The neighborhood is great where we live. Most of these neighbors walk down here at least once a week with their families.”

“There aren’t many businesses run by mother and daughter, and we’re still sane,” she said. “We’re excited; we didn’t think we’d be here. Those first two years when her dad was sick, we had to figure a lot out.”

“We made it, and we’re excited,” Gambrel said. “My kids have been raised here.”

Olivia, who is nine years old, talks about owning the restaurant after her mother.

“She really sincerely thinks she’s going to run it next,” Gambrel said. “She’s got her goals.”

“All the customers know her especially because she comes in and says hi to everybody,” she said.

The Great Bay Oyster House is open Monday through Thursday from 4:30-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4:30-10 p.m. with Happy Hour every day from 4:30-7 p.m.

“We want to thank Greer and the community and our regular customers that have allowed The Great Bay to be open for 15 years,” Christofferson said.

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Written by Kaelyn Cashman, Greer Citizen

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The Great Bay Oyster House

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