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Christofferson's 'incredible legacy' is a pathway to the future

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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Stan Christofferson and his daughter, Katie, shared a few moments between vists from guests at the Stand Up For Stan fundraiser on March 29. Katie delivered Stan his first grandson earlier this spring.

Stan Christofferson and his daughter, Katie, shared a few moments between vists from guests at the Stand Up For Stan fundraiser on March 29. Katie delivered Stan his first grandson earlier this spring.



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Stan spent time at home recuperating between radiation and chemotherapy treatments. During that time he would also be taking phone calls, making lists of things to attend to at the Great Bay Oyster House.

Stan spent time at home recuperating between radiation and chemotherapy treatments. During that time he would also be taking phone calls, making lists of things to attend to at the Great Bay Oyster House.



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Carley Reeves holds her son, Tucker, 3, who was the beneficiary of the second Stand Up For Stand benefit. Tucker is battling a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the brain and spine.

Carley Reeves holds her son, Tucker, 3, who was the beneficiary of the second Stand Up For Stand benefit. Tucker is battling a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the brain and spine.



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The good times rolled at the Stand Up For Stan benefit. A guest and Stan laugh during a chat at Grace Hall.

The good times rolled at the Stand Up For Stan benefit. A guest and Stan laugh during a chat at Grace Hall.



Stan Christofferson, owner of the Great Bay Oyster House, was an easy mark for people seeking help with a project that needed some infusion of money or contributions of goods. He was a good place to start because it would prove to be a positive beginning for a community drive.

“I would walk into Stan’s office and he would say, ‘you’re here again? How much do I owe you now chief?’ Anytime we needed something or wanted help Stan was there for us,” Greer Police Chief Dan Reynolds said. Reynolds laughed at the recurring visits that resulted in both teasing each other. Cops for Tots and other fundraisers were always the winners and Stan “provided valuable assistance to us.”

Reynolds honored Stan last year with the Chief of Police Award for outstanding service to the community. The plaque has its place of honor at the Great Bay Oyster House.

Reynolds and many others in the community have one less resource to partner with. Christofferson, 54, died May 18 after losing a gallant battle with cancer. A memorial service drop-in today will be held 5-7 p.m. at Grace Hall. A balloon launch will follow.

Christofferson’s family suggested friends, acquaintances and visitors enjoy the downtown restaurants this evening.  That would be a fitting tribute to a person who dared greatly with a restaurant that was the gateway to Great Station and would become known as Restaurant Row.

Christofferson had granted GreerToday.com interviews to discuss his life, family and impact of the Great Bay Oyster House as he was recovering from radiation and chemotherapy treatments for bladder and lung cancer. Sadly, the final interview did not take place.

Family was Stan’s love

Sunday, March 25 was a memorable day for Stan. “I went fishing with my granddaughter, Olivia,” Stan said. “She’s three-years old and we call her the ‘Little Queen of the Restaurant.’”

Within a month Stan’s daughter, Katie, presented him his first grandson, Micah.

“Katie has done great with the restaurant and all that she has had to do,” Stan said. “Diane (Stan’s wife) is there for her and I try to slide in and help Katie when I can.”

Katie convinced Stan to visit the emergency room on Jan. 7, 2011. He had been feeling ill and procrastinated visiting a doctor, partly knowing that his dad had died of kidney cancer. Stan was diagnosed with bladder cancer at first and later it was discovered in his lung. He required radiation and chemotherapy treatments for the better part of his remaining life. “The radiation and chemo threw me over the edge. The fatigue, at first was awful, later not so bad,” Stan said.

Stan doted, on his grandchildren, people who knew him said. He expressed an inner joy and peace knowing his grandson would be born within weeks. “I’m going to be a grandfather and I can’t think of anything grander at this point in my life,” Stan said.

Diane, Stan’s wife of 34 years, was his high school sweetheart.

She has been the steadying influence during his illness. “What’s that saying, ‘Behind every successful man, there is a woman?’ Diane has pulled everything together with the business and family,” Stan said.

Diane has also been nursing her and Stan’s mother and helping manage the restaurant during Katie’s pregnancy. “Her glass is always half full,” Ronnie Bruce, a Greer attorney, said.

Passion for food rooted in Italy

Stan grew up in Florence, Italy, the benefit of a father who worked with Mobil Oil and traveled frequently.  He attended American School of Art and said he was proudest graduating in the top seven of his senior class. “Of course there were only seven of us in the senior class,” Stan said with a big laugh. “The school was small but the friendships were strong.

“We lived everywhere. I grew up in the ‘70s when music in Italy was mostly British, The Who, Rod Stewart, Rolling Stones … “

He vacationed in Italy and Spain, with his family, sons Stan and Alex, and daughter Katie. He wanted to share his early influences in life and food with them.

Stan’s passion for food took root in Italy. “I helped a friend when I was just a teen washing the dishes. I learned some things and came back to the states and became manager of food service at Hope College (Holland, Mich.). I learned the discipline of food service there. I managed the shifts in line and basically did everything from the menu to the cleanup.” That experience sealed Stan’s vision of opening his own restaurant.

A good part of Stan’s career was in packaging, a job he took after Hope College. “Owning a restaurant was always there inside of me,” Stan said. “I’m a spontaneous guy and I just decided it was time to open a restaurant. My family bought in and we began looking for a place.”

“The concept he had was unique and oysters were his main ingredient,” Diane said.

The oyster bar concept, according to Stan, came about because of his enjoyment with the food and there were no similar restaurants from Columbia to the Upstate. Alex had the idea of a casual seafood bar like those along the coast serving the best oysters from the Gulf coast. John Sparrow, a friend of Stan’s, had the only oyster bar – Mother Schucker’s – located in Columbia.  “There was nothing like Great Bay, “ Stan said. “

Stan, while searching for a place to anchor his dream, came upon the building at 109 E. Poinsett Street that caught his attention. Vernon Price had that building for sale and it looked near perfect for what Stan wanted. A second building was bought that became the rear of Great Bay where Sushi Mizu was established.

“I was walking downtown when I saw the building. We decided to combine the two buildings and it was long, back to front. There was a stigma that it was a hole in the wall. It was perfect for what I wanted,” Stan said.

Alex, refurbished the interior and established the menu. “It was our menu of choice,” Stan said. “Alex worked for Carl Sobocinski at several of his Greenville restaurants and he had a great experience and was an excellent cook. “Alex and I were open as a team.”

Stan vividly remembered opening night – Dec. 31, 2004. “We got it,” Stan said. We turned that place around big.”

Stan: ‘I like being the little social butterfly’

“He’s my hero,” said Denise VandenBerghe, co-owner of Wild Ace Pizza and Pub and Acme General Store.

“When I came to Greer I went to (GBOH) because of Stan. He greets you with hugs. His personality made that restaurant. People enjoyed seeing him and he had a great attitude on life,” said VandenBerghe.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 >>

People mentioned in this article. Click a name to view more articles for that person.

Stan Christofferson

Businesses mentioned in this article.

Acme General Store, BIN112, BMW, City of Greer, Grace Hall, Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce, Greer Development Corporation

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