WHEN Tim Sutherland first saw Port Fairy's former National Australia Bank site, he immediately saw potential to retire with a vision.
Within two months of visiting the town for the first time, Mr Sutherland and wife Deborah Perkins, who both live and work in the United States, purchased the 1200 square-metre property.
It includes the former bank offices, two-storey 12-room house, and gardens.
The gardens are already undergoing a transformation to make way for a pop-up bar with an American barbecue-style food truck this summer.
"I can see the potential that's here, there is so much that can be done on the site," Mr Sutherland said.
The Dallas-based chef, who cooks privately in family homes, has a dream as the saying goes that's as big as Texas. He plans with council permission to install a commercial kitchen that could offer southern barbecue-style cuisine.
Mr Sutherland named the business The Fairy and the Garden and will spend this summer gaining an understanding of Port Fairy's needs.
The couple had plans to retire in south-west Victoria and looked at properties in the Otways, but fell in love with the former bank.
"We put an offer in during the first week after seeing the inside," Mr Sutherland said.
Mr Sutherland grew up in the Western Australian coastal town of Augusta, which he said reminded him of Port Fairy.
"It just has that feel that is really good, everyone looking after each other."
Local historian Marten Syme said the site was used as a warehouse in the 19th century before the Colonial Bank of Australasia built the bank around 1910.
The National Australia Bank branch had operated at the site since the 1920s and closed last year. Wishart Gallery had also leased part of the site in the past year.
Mr Sutherland said he had plans to draw out the building's historical features, including it's tall decorated ceilings, vault, and abutting blue stone wall.
"It's not covering over the past, we aren't hiding this was a bank," he said. "We want to bring out that beautiful detail you don't see."
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.