The Collectors’ Cafe in Myrtle Beach has burned down. What’s Next?

The summer of 2020 was harrowing for an almost endless list of reasons.

One of those reasons? The fire that destroyed the Collector’s Café, an icon of fine dining in an area known for its pie houses and seafood buffets.

The restaurant had a cult following, and this fire broke the hearts of many of its old customers. The fire burned down the work, though firefighters were able to salvage most of the artwork inside, allowing owner Tommy Davis to preserve the building blocks for whatever comes next.

These clients never gave up, and since then, they have teased Davis about his plans for the future. He said reopening the restaurant has never been a question, and his customers, any time they see him, ask him when he will finally return.

“We can’t go anywhere without people asking, ‘What’s going on with Collector? When will the mosque reopen? Will you reopen antiques collectors? Or, ‘We miss the collector. We want it back. We’ll be your first customer.’

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The Collector’s Café and Gallery in Myrtle Beach was damaged in a fire on July 16. Charles Duncan [email protected]

What made the collector so special was the food and wine, of course, but people also loved the art that covered its walls, floors, and surfaces. This art, created by Davis himself, often left the walls of collectors in the homes of restaurant customers.

Two years after that ominous fire tore through the space that was once Davis’ art gallery, he finally took the first steps in the evolution of the Collector’s Cafe by returning to its roots.

This summer, the Thomas Davis Island Fox Art Gallery opened.

all about art

Davis does not give the initial impression of the artist. He studied business administration in college and immediately headed to art college after graduation. He spent half a decade graphic design in advertising. His affinity for painting, his true love these days, did not come until he visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York City with his mother when he was thirty years old. It was Matisse’s gallery that made him turn towards painting.

“Ironically, Matisse, he said, he started drawing when he was 30 years old,” he said.

After that, he was hooked. Fall in love with drawing. His favorite medium is oil on canvas. Oftentimes, he travels to art centers in places around the world and paints what he saw upon his return home. Recently, he’s been to Rome and Capri in Italy and has painted stunning images of sidewalk cafes and Mediterranean vistas, places he’ll rely on for the future of collectors.

Collectors’ Café is expected to reopen this year with an outdoor courtyard, indoor/outdoor bar, open kitchen, and more dining space. It includes a new room that is currently used as an art studio. Alan Blondin [email protected]

The Island Fox Art Gallery is the focus of Davis art these days – the home of those modern paintings inspired by Rome and Capri. The name comes from his personal nickname, which he chose after learning about the Blue Terrier in New Orleans, one of the symbols of that city.

“I kind of associate with the fox as a character, like a spirit animal,” he said. “I just decided to do a fox because I love to travel, go to different islands, so I just started drawing a fox everywhere I go….People love foxes. She is a good character who is flexible and smart.”

Collectors Cafe - Island Fox, by Thomas Davis
This photo shows “Island Fox,” a painting by Thomas Davis, part of the Spring Art Show through Friday at Collectors Cafe & Art Gallery, 7740 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, open at noon until midnight Monday through Saturday. Details at 843-449-9370 or photo courtesy

His art is not only from afar. He also loves Myrtle Beach, the home he grew up in. Davis loves to paint pictures of Morells Bay and the wetlands and swamps across the Grand Strand.

The Island Fox Art Gallery was indeed a powerful first step for Davis’ return to Myrtle Beach’s life. Within six hours of the gallery opening in July, he sold his first painting, often receiving online inquiries about his work. Many of the sales were from old fans, who follow Davis’ cult, if you will.

“We go out and a lot of people will immediately tell me, ‘Oh, we have this art hanging in our house. “Some people have groups of it,” Weinberg said. “And we hope to get them out of the cult.”

What’s next for a coffee library?

The fire broke Davis’ heart. The Collector has been his home for 26 years.

“My sister and I were there, and we hugged each other because we were there at first,” he said. “We’ve been there for 27 years, and we’re going to rebuild it.”

Davis wants to focus on his new art gallery – because that’s the only concrete plan he has at the moment.

But he fell back on inquiries about Collector, since the community he helped build around him hadn’t given in to him all these years.

“We didn’t realize it was going to take that long,” Davis said.

This tile mosaic was on the floor of the Collector’s Cafe, a restaurant and art gallery that burned down in 2020. Owner Tommy Davis plans to rebuild the collector and preserve the artwork inside like this. Karakostas chase

Davis said the time it took to rebuild Collector was good, though. It gave him time to think about what he wanted the future to be rather than rushing into a recovery that would bring life back the way it was before.

“When you change the design a little bit, you add something new. It helps you let go, and you look to the future instead of holding on to the past,” Weinberg said.

At times, the questions about the Collector were relentless. About a year ago, Davis said, he began to feel fatigued. The time since the restaurant welcomed customers for the last time has continued to increase, and the constant questioning has made him feel bad about his future.

The most important answer is, ‘Thank you for your patience. Sorry it took so long, because everything else is taking longer these days to get done, and it’s going to be a little different. “We are making strides,” Davis said. “We’re going to create something in the next 27 years. …that’s how I stay positive about it – thinking about what’s going to be there. I’m kind of letting go of what was there, and looking forward to what will be there.”

This tiled worktop was created by artist Thomas Davis, owner of Collector’s Cafe, a restaurant where his countertop once lived. The restaurant was damaged by a fire in 2020 and will now be rebuilt and Davis plans to incorporate these tile mosaics into his work. The piece shows, from top left to bottom right, the wine-making process. Karakostas chase

But with Weinberg’s help, he began to change that. These questions shifted from constant grumbling to the impulse to push into the future.

“Somewhere along the line, we were able to turn that around,” Weinberg said. Now, when people ask when Collector will be back, they think, “Oh my God, that’s why we’re doing this, because all these people are waiting for him to come back.”

Davis’ plans for the restaurant are great. Inspired by those European cities he loves to paint, he wants to turn the Collector into the sidewalk cafés that America lacks but so many in Europe that they are becoming popular.

The collector will have several types of spaces—and plenty of room for art, of course. Here are some of Davis’ ideas for what he wants to be.

  • Outdoor lounge with al fresco dining and bar. This will be the first opening, aiming to welcome customers this winter.
  • An indoor bar and restaurant for casual dining, away from the elements, with walls covered in art from both Davis and local artists, all for sale. Customers who see something they like can take it home that night.
  • Back room featuring quieter gourmet cuisine, for those who want to have a conversation in a quieter place and enjoy a bottle of wine away from the bustle.
  • Finally, the space where the Island Fox Gallery is now located will now be an “extra room” – a venue for events where diners can learn more about art from Davis or just enjoy a more private experience.
A view of one of the new rooms planned for the Collector’s Cafe when it reopens. The restaurant and art gallery was damaged in a fire two years ago and had to be destroyed. Thomas Davis Island Fox Art Gallery

Davis doesn’t know exactly when the Collector’s Cafe will reopen. Inflation, permits, supply chain problems and labor shortages are among the many obstacles it faces.

However, make no mistake. The whole will return. When that happens, Davis hopes it will raise the profile of the city he loves.

“Sometimes people have a bad idea of ​​what Myrtle Beach is like, and I take it seriously because I’m from here,” he said. “I want people to walk in the door and feel like they’re not in ‘Myrtle Beach’ — they’re transported somewhere else for that hour or so, and they’re here and they feel good.”

He hopes the collector will start a culture where customers tell others, “There’s a really good place in Myrtle Beach to go,” and those people become the newest visitors to the Grand Strand.

Collectors’ Café is expected to reopen this year with an outdoor courtyard, indoor/outdoor bar, open kitchen, and more dining space. Alan Blondin [email protected]

In the meantime, all Davis wants is for his beloved clients and friends to celebrate the new art exhibition, the first step into the future of the collector’s personal future, and Davis too.

“People come to me and ask, ‘When do you open?'” Davis said. “It’s not so much about time as it is part of what.

“We’ll update it and tell people the stages of what we’re doing, and share some plans and design concepts so people can get as excited about new collectors as they are about old collectors, because it’s about the future, not the past.”

His only request?

“be patient.”

This story was originally published September 22, 2022 6:00 am.

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Chase Karakostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and across South Carolina for McClatchy. Graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and Political Communication. McClatchy began working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he has minor lines at three of the state’s largest print media outlets as well as the Texas Tribune covering state politics, the environment, housing, and the LGBTQ+ community.

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