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At ripe old age of 108, restored downtown building on verge of new life

The building began its life in 1910 as Security Trust Bank.

It was built to be strong, traditional and beautiful.

It's been through a lot in the intervening 108 years.

In January 2019, the neoclassical sandstone structure that a local historian once described as a "little Beaux-Arts temple" is expected to open its doors as The 18hundred, Bakersfield's newest locally owned restaurant.

"The floors are done, the kitchen is done, the plumbing is done," said Foti Tsiboukas, who along with his wife, Maya, purchased the building last year.

Outdoor lighting already illuminates the exterior design. Awnings are in place. Even holiday decorations adorn the tall, impressive windows.

But counters and tables still need to be installed, and many other details must be seen to.

It's been more than four years since the venerable old building in downtown Bakersfield reappeared close to its original form to the amazement of thousands of area residents.

The building's striking architecture had been hidden for decades — and mostly forgotten — behind an ugly wall of stucco. It once was on a list for demolition.

Now, after years of anticipation, the new owners, whose family started the series of Fabulous Burgers restaurants, and who operate the one on Airport Drive, are going in a new direction, although Foti Tsiboukas isn't ready to reveal the details of his new menu just yet.

"Mums the word on that," he said Wednesday. "I'll let people decide when they walk in."

Tsiboukas hasn't had much rest lately. He and his wife have a 4-year-old son, and a second baby boy was born just 2½ months ago.

"I haven't slept for 2½ months," he said, laughing.

Tsiboukas played soccer for Cal State Bakersfield and returned to the city with his family to continue his career and raise his children here.

He said he wants to do right by the building, and create a space people want to come back to.

The food will be locally sourced when possible, he said, but he doesn't want it to be too expensive.

"I don't want to price people out," he said last year.

Bakersfield resident Ben Mendez, who peeked his head into the building Wednesday morning as a lone worker stayed busy on the interior, said he's been wanting to eat there as soon as he learned a restaurant is going in.

"What a cool building," he said. "It takes you back to another time."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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