Vailhouse Oyster Bar and Grille

Renovations are underway inside Vailhouse Oyster Bar and Grille, at 301 N. Spence Ave., which is set to open at Cobblestone Place in March.

Tom Vail says he recognized a need or at least something that people who eat out were missing — an oyster bar and seafood restaurant.

That spawned the idea for Vailhouse Oyster Bar and Grille, which will take over the former location of Sumo Japanese Steak and Sushi restaurant at 301 N. Spence Ave., at Cobblestone Place. The restaurant is expected to open in early March.

“I’m opening it because I thought it was the only underserved foodie group in our area currently,” said Vail, who also owns P.T.’s Grille on Wayne Memorial Drive and the Pizza Inn in Pikeville. “That is one of the only items that people in our area have to travel outside of Wayne County to get.”

Vail’s son, Addison, also was a major part of convincing Vail to open the new business.

“My youngest graduated from N.C. State in December, and while he was at N.C. State, he worked at 42nd Street Oyster Bar and developed a love for shucking oysters,” Vail said. “Since the family business is now restaurants, he approached me about opening up an oyster bar, and he decided he wanted that career path instead of teaching history. So that led us down this path.”

Addison Vail will manage the oyster bar, while Tom Vail and older son Blake Vail will help run the restaurant overall. The bar is the restaurant’s main focus, but Vailhouse will feature a variety of seafood dishes, including crab legs, shrimp and a catch of the day, along with sandwiches.

Goldsboro’s proximity to the coast means the oysters will be fresh from the farm to the bar, every day.

“We are partnering with Pamlico Packing, which is right there in Grantsboro, to get some oysters and then Cheney Brothers and U.S. Foods both have a terrific selection of fresh oysters,” Tom Vail said. “They’ll be harvested and most days show up at our door the same day that they actually were taken out of their beds, so they’ll be super fresh.”

Oyster aficionados have an old school rule about only eating oysters in the months with an “r” –– September through April –– to not disrupt shellfish spawning patterns. However, farm-grown oysters do not reproduce, so they are good to eat any time of the year, Vail said.

Renovations on the property started about five months ago and the work should be finished by the end of February, said Pat McArthur, a partner with McArthur Properties, which owns Cobblestone Place.

The interior of the restaurant will feature a rustic look, with authentic wood and metal taken from old buildings in the area. Metal surrounding the oyster bar was taken from a grain facility owned by Tom Vail’s grandfather, and 1,200 tobacco sticks cover the wall where it connects to the ceiling. The oyster bar will dominate the center of the room, with more seating near the front of the restaurant.

McArthur pointed to a wooden structure on a far wall.

“This here, we disassembled a barn,” he said. “We’re using all of the old barn wood that you see in here from that.”

The building project cost around $400,000, McArthur said.

Once it opens, Vailhouse will employ between 40 and 50 people, Vail said. Many positions will be part-time and several employees have already been hired.

The restaurant will be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Happy hour will be from 4:30-6 p.m. every day, with oyster bar specials available.