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‘Customers have been like family’ says retiring Barsanti’s owner

Barsanti’s Restaurant and Root River Golf Club sold to new owners after 77 years
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Richard Barsanti, Barsanti’s Restaurant and Root River Golf Club owner, on July 7, 2019 (Darren Taylor/SooToday)

Barsanti’s Restaurant and Root River Golf Club, a favourite gathering place for Sault Ste. Marie diners and golfers for decades, has been sold to new owners. 

For co-owner Richard Barsanti, It’s been more than just a job or a business to run.

It’s been a family. 

“It’s like a child. We’ve seen it grow. We’ve brought it along. And you’ve got to know when to let it go,” said Barsanti, speaking to SooToday.

Barsanti is a man clearly passionate and sentimental about his business, his family and his customers, which he described as a large, extended family.

“We planted trees with our grandchildren. The place is living and growing. It’s been a place for everyone to come to, to learn and grow (as employees and as individuals).”

“There comes a time when you have to know when to let go,” Barsanti said, stating government mandated COVID-19 restrictions on just about everything, including the restaurant and recreation industry, had nothing to do with the decision to sell the golf course and restaurant.

Barsanti owned and operated the business as manager, working with his brother (Harvey Barsanti Jr.) and two sisters.

An employer who strongly believes in hiring youth, giving them a start in the workforce and a chance to grow as employees and reach their potential as individuals, Barsanti said, “I had students working for me for the longest time.”

“Every summer we’d get another batch of students. There’s been a number of people that have come through here that have moved on in the business, or other businesses, in respect to working here at the golf course, or elsewhere in the service industry, in merchandising and sales and customer service.”

His own children have worked for the business over the years.

New, locally based owners Dustin Grondin – who worked at the Root River Golf Club pro shop, one of many employees Barsanti has seen grow over the years – his wife Christina and their own family members have purchased the nine-hole golf course and restaurant.

Barsanti said the name ‘Barsanti’s Restaurant’ will not continue, as the eatery is to operate under a new name.

Dustin Grondin’s father, Roland Grondin, will stay on as Root River Golf Club pro shop manager.

“In the 1970s we were one of the first supper clubs in town. People were coming out here to dance and eat on Friday and Saturday nights. I’m sure Dustin’s going to be looking at trying to get that back again when COVID is over,” Barsanti said.

“There are so many emotions (involved with the sale of the business),” said Jennifer Inglis, Barsanti’s daughter and Barsanti’s Restaurant manager.

“It was a dream of my grandparents. I watched my grandparents build the restaurant, and then my dad in his footsteps, and then my brother Rob and myself now. To carry on her (grandmother Jane Barsanti’s) legacy has been a true honour.”

“She was a strong, independent woman and I like to think that I’ve followed in her footsteps.”

“We’ve built this place up and people love coming here. We’re passing on the torch to another family and they have young kids, and their kids are going to be able to grow up here and learn what I learned, how to be with people and how to make people feel at home,” Inglis said.

“Our (golf club) members are part of our family. We have a huge family (members and customers) here. We’ve had staff that have been here for years. The legacy is there. How many people can say they've been in business for 77 years?” said Inglis, who added she will be staying on at the restaurant for a time to assist the new owners.

“I’ll miss the people,” Inglis said.

“We had a church group that would come for breakfast. The ladies made a quilt for me and my son. That’s what I’m going to miss the most. People are not only coming for the food. They’re coming for the family feeling, feeling at home.”

“I’m going to say my serving staff is probably the best in the city,” Inglis said with both pride and a chuckle.

Like her father, Inglis said she is pleased the restaurant and golf course have been purchased by another local family.

“It feels like the end of an era,” said Tony Madonna, a longtime Root River Golf Club member. 

Having known the Barsanti family for many years, Madonna said “playing at The Root is like playing at your family golf course. They treat you like family there. They’ve developed a lot of loyalty over the years. The city owes a lot of its golf lineage to the Barsantis (and) the restaurant has always been one of the finer eateries in the city over the years.”

“The new owners seem like really good people... it seems like it’ll be a smooth transition,” Madonna added, stating he plans to continue golfing and dining at the establishment.

“My husband and I and my family have been members at the golf club for over 20 years. The beauty of Barsanti’s is that Harvey and Richard will come and give my mother a hug, except for COVID times,” said Carole Sibilo.

“It’s a home away from home,” said Sibilo’s husband Richard.

“Every milestone in our family, almost every birthday and at Christmas, we’d celebrate there in the dining room,” Carole said.

“It’s a little sad, but the bright side is that we know who is taking it over as well. I wish the Barsanti family all the best. We’re definitely going to miss them.

Over the years the Barsanti family owned and operated several restaurants in the Sault, including Barsanti’s Steak House, Barsanti’s Small Frye and The Underpass Grill.

Richard Barsanti’s father, Harvey Barsanti Sr., worked as a Memorial Gardens employee before purchasing the golf course at Root River.

The course itself was first established under its original owners in the 1930s, but became grown over due to a lack of staff and equipment to maintain it during the Second World War. Harvey Barsanti Sr. bought the land and recultivated it in 1944.

When Harvey Barsanti Sr. died in 1960, the nine-hole golf course passed on to his wife Jane, who built the clubhouse and restaurant in 1965, and was eventually run by Richard, his brother Harvey Jr., and their two sisters in the 1990s.

Root River Golf Club officially marked its 75th anniversary in July 2019.

Planning to stay active in retirement, Richard Barsanti said, “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to move to a new chapter and looking forward to spending time with my grandkids.”

That retirement, to be certain, will be filled with good memories to enjoy.

– SooToday