The Buck Hotel's former owner, Michael Miller, closed the business abruptly on New Year's Day.
Garvey's partner, Steven W. Senopoulos, purchased the property in May, when its assets were transferred to him by U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Reading.
Some customers Wednesday were clearly happy that the restaurant was back in business. "We used to come here and, when it closed, we were virtually displaced," said Bob Seewagen of Langhorne, who was sitting at the bar late Wednesday afternoon with his brother-in-law, Otello Ricci of Huntingdon Valley.
"The place has a history," Ricci said. "I enjoy the atmosphere and the many nice people who come in."
Garvey, president of the company, said he was stressing customer satisfaction. He hopes many of the old clientele will return, as well as new customers. With the help of his wife, Lorie, Garvey oversees the operation of the restaurant, which has 75 employees and which can seat 350 diners in its ballroom.
Garvey's seven-year-old catering business, Creative Cuisine, is providing the initial money to keep the historic landmark on Bridgeton Pike operating. He said, however, that he expects revenue of $4 million during the restaurant's first year of operation.
Garvey has a lease-purchase agreement with Senopoulos, the son of Harry Senopoulos, who was co-owner of the restaurant from 1977 to 1988. "I eventually will buy everything out," Garvey said.
The New Year's closure of the business, which had catered to the public as a hotel or a restaurant since 1735, left employees without jobs and engaged couples without a wedding reception site. Miller also left $300,000 in taxes unpaid, authorities said.
Miller was arrested April 23 by Lower Southampton police detectives on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy involving nearly $5,000 in wedding-reception deposits he allegedly received. He faces trial this fall.
Although the Buck Hotel foundered financially under Miller's management, Garvey said the interior renovations done by Miller were very good, particularly the lighting and sound systems. "It's one of the reasons I wanted to become involved in this place," Garvey said. "From a construction standpoint, the place is state of the art."
Garvey and Senopoulos estimate that Miller spent up to $7 million on renovations.
A graduate of the Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute in Rhode Island, Garvey describes his menu as American continental, incorporating French, Italian and American cooking.
Before opening his Feasterville catering business, Garvey worked as executive chef for Hilton Hotels Corp. in Philadelphia. Before that, he was the chef at the Hershey Hotel in Philadelphia and a chef at the Contemporary Hotel in Disney World, at age 21. "I found my career young, and I decided I was going to sacrifice a bit of my social life," he explained.
Garvey didn't advertise the reopening of the Buck Hotel because he didn't want to have huge crowds on the first day. Better to start slowly and have everything go smoothly, he said. "Getting it right is the key," he said.
In his catering business, that philosophy was like yeast. "As bad as the economy was in the last five years, we have tripled and tripled and tripled our business," Garvey said.
He said he is convinced that his reputation and service will do the same for the Buck Hotel. "You put a good product out there and a good service, people will come out," he said.