Family redeveloping historic Easley silos

I hate to admit it now, but I’ve never had much appreciation for the old grain silos on the west end of downtown Easley.

But then, I’m not a visionary like Stacey Desrosiers and her family, who own and operate Inky’s Authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteaks and Hoagies in the Easley Village Shopping Center.

Along with some other visionaries at the city of Easley, who also saw the potential for re-purposing the old Dixie Milling Company site, the Desrosiers family are developing a complex of neighborhood-oriented food and beverage venues to be called, appropriately, The Silos.
Think affordable craft beer, scratch-made ice cream, Neapolitan pizza and homemade pasta, authentic Mexican fare and, of course, authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks.

This is just the latest iteration of an evolving family vision that goes back to a great-grandfather nicknamed “Inky” who sold cheesesteaks to workers in the shipyards south of Philly during World War II, and a father who sold the same kind of cheesesteaks out of an old school bus in the 1980s.
But what’s at the heart of this whole project is the desire to create a community venue for the people of Easley who have been so supportive of Inky’s over the past five years since it went into operation, Stacey says.

“Our whole goal when we set out to do this project was to bring something that fits in with the current community of Easley, which is already wonderful,” she said. “We are not looking to change, to gentrify, to push people out. Our goal was to bring something blue collar, where the neighborhood of Easley could all come together regardless of economic status, regardless of race, gender, religion, creed — none of that matters.

“All we wanted is create a space where everyone felt like our neighbors and our family,” she said. “Just like we’ve done at Inky’s, we want to do it on a bigger scale.”
She calls it “gift to the community we love so dearly.”

The plans are to have The Silos in operation by the end of the year, pandemic or not.
This all got started about a year ago, when Stacey noticed that the city was trying to save the historic structure at the intersection of Main Street and S.C. Highway 8 from being torn down.
“So I went and asked Blake Sanders what was going on,” she said.
Sanders was the visionary city planner at that time — the same guy who did most of the design work on the Doodle Trail.

“Within 48 hours, we had a brewery lined up and we began the process,” Stacey said.
Inky’s, which uses only prime Angus beef, sliced paper-thin, to make its famous griddle-cooked cheesesteaks, will move into a building that was once the old mill store.

Belladina’s, the pizza and pasta place, will serve up Italian food made from family recipes in an old train car that previously served as a diner for workers at the nearby mill.

Burrito Hub, which uses only “the freshest ingredients,” will operate out of another train car that Stacey’s husband, David, arranged to have relocated there from Macon, Ga.

Pink Mama will offer high quality scratch-made ice cream from a truck on the site.
And, of course, Silos Brewing Company will be housed in the silos.

The complex will be like an open-air food festival of sorts. That will facilitate social distancing, if we’re still in that mode when the place opens, Stacey said.

Sounds like a good thing to me!

The Ellis Architecture Group is doing the design work, and Ace 360 is the contractor.
The Desrosiers family is buying the property from the city.

If you’ve ever been into Inky’s, you may have seen a reproduction of a story I did when they first opened that tells some of the history behind the place, and I’m going to retell some of it to you here, because it’s pretty fascinating.

The story goes back to the year 1916, when Albert Harris, at the age of 16, immigrated to the United States from Wales.

He had played semi-professional soccer in Wales and always wore a black skull cap when he played, hence the nickname “Inky.”

He began selling cheesesteaks to workers in the shipyards south of the city, and sometimes had help from his grandson, Stacey’s dad, Bill Sickman.

By the 1940s, he had a couple of shops, and a reputation for the best cheesesteaks around.
Some four decades later, Sickman was running a cheesesteak store out of an old school bus in the suburbs of Philadelphia and dreaming of owning a restaurant. But he couldn’t make a go of it at the time and went into the insurance business.

He moved his family to the Upstate in 1997, but the idea of a restaurant remained in the back of his mind.
One complication after another kept the dream at bay for decades.

Then, during a random search on craigslist, the Desrosiers family found a restaurant that was going out of business and had all its kitchen equipment and furnishings up for sale for $6,000.

So they bought the equipment and established Inky’s at its current location at the shopping center.
Good cheesesteaks pretty much sell themselves. It didn’t take long for the place to catch on big time.
“Easley has loved us and wrapped their arms around us,” Stacey said. “We would be nothing without this community.

“So we just want them to know that they are loved and this (the Silos) is for them.”
Thank you, Desrosiers family. The feeling is mutual.