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Two longtime friends who share a love of history have "gone green" while completing a five year journey -- the opening of their restaurant.
Beekman Webb, a Beaufort native known for his historic preservation work on homes in the area, has partnered with his friend of 35 years, Bob Roderer, to revitalize the former Frogmore Post Office.
They're calling it The Foolish Frog.
The cement block building where mail was once sorted for St. Helena, Fripp, Harbor and Hunting islands is now a restaurant named after the first song Webb learned at the age of 5 from his maternal grandfather, Leon Stansell of Barnwell County. Webb, who plays fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin in the Beekman Webb Band, later learned to play the song.
"It is kind of ... a children's song, a nursery rhyme song," Webb said. "It was the first song I ever remember."
HOW THEY MET
Roderer and Webb met when they both were living on boats in North Carolina. Webb was restoring wooden boats, and Roderer was a sport and charter boat fisherman with culinary skills. In 1985 he opened a restaurant, Jockey's Ribs, in Nags Head, N.C. The building was a former grocery store.
"I like to keep old buildings going," Roderer said.
Webb eventually returned to Beaufort to restore homes, but his friendship with Roderer continued. After fishing trips to Florida, Roderer would stop in Beaufort on his return to North Carolina.
For years, the friends knew they wanted to open a restaurant in Beaufort that served Lowcountry cuisine. They searched for the perfect location and finally began renovations at the site on St. Helena Island.
The restaurant's green theme goes beyond its frog logo. The Foolish Frog is "green," in the environmentally responsible sense, in many ways. Recycled materials were used to renovate the building; an herb garden was planted just outside the front door; no trees were cut down when revamping the oyster shell-lined parking lot; and the restaurant serves strictly locally caught, in-season fresh fish and shrimp and locally grown vegetables.
Some of the items salvaged during Webb's 26 years of work at Beekman Webb Construction have been recycled from historical sites in Beaufort and helped warm up the former block building.
Cypress paneling was rescued some 20 years ago from the old ice house in Burton. The 100-year-old pine front door was saved from a Bay Street home. The bottom of the bar is covered in a decoratively patterned pressed sheet iron that once was the roof of a brick outbuilding behind the Joseph Johnson House, circa 1861, known as The Castle, in Beaufort's Old Point neighborhood. Light fixtures above the booths feature
gasoline-powered lights from the early 1900s rescued from demolition.
"I have a longtime interest in the history of the old homes," said Webb, who grew up on The Point and played under the old houses he would later restore.
They also at least partially restored the building's old name.
"We knew we wanted to tie the name in with 'Frogmore'," Webb said. He remembered the first song he learned and thought it was a perfect name. "It just rolls off your tongue and it is kind of fun to say," Roderer said.
They have even preserved old family memories. Webb shared his favorite Lowcountry foods and recipes with Roderer, the restaurant's chef, who then chose some for the menu -- including, of course, Frogmore Stew. Roderer started cooking at the feet of his mother and grandmother at the age of 4. He insists on a seasonal menu featuring local dishes.
"I enjoy cooking grilled fish," Roderer said. "We will serve all local shrimp and the seasonal dishes will use as much local food as we can get when things are at their peak. I am not into cans."