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Spirits, home-style food & history
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Deborah Finley the owner of Finleys Bar and Grill on Airport Way pours a drink for a customer. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

If you blink, you might miss Finley’s Bar and Grill on Airport Way.
Tucked back on the corner alongside Fisk Road, the stop – which was built originally as a mercantile and general store by a man named John Franklin Jack more than a century ago – has become a favorite of both locals and those passing through who appreciate the nostalgia that hits you like a ton a bricks the second you walk through the big, heavy front door.
It’s almost like stepping into a time machine.
The layout – with a heavy bar directly in front of the entrance with some small tables scattered about and a larger dining room in the rear of the establishment – is a throwback to a different era. That’s exactly what owner Deborah Finley wanted to convey when she opened the restaurant and bar more than two decades ago.
Finley, who worked at Rocko’s at the time she purchased the property and also had a restaurant in Arkansas, said that she was drawn to the historic nature of the building and saw it as a chance to share that with customers – some of whom have become very good friends over the years.
“I love the people, and I love to feed people and see them happy and enjoying themselves,” Finley said. “It’s a really unique building, and if these walls could talk about the things that have gone on in here it would tell an amazing story.”
And sometimes the walls themselves do talk inside of the restaurant.
While the majority of their customers come for the ambiance and the food – the full-service kitchen serves traditional home-style meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner – a growing number have been out to see the place featured on a pair of paranormal activity research shows that were broadcast on cable.
According to Finley, strange things have been known to happen in the kitchen including pots and pans that fly off the rack, drawers and the walk-in refrigerator door opening on their own, the volume on the television going up and down without anybody touching the remote and the lights flickering on and off.
 When investigators arrived to see what they could find, they uncovered three names that puzzled Finley – John, Frank and Jack – as she racked her brain to think about any connection that those names could have to the history of the building.
It wasn’t until she received something from the Manteca Historical Society – who informed her the mercantile was actually built by a Stockton realtor named John Franklin Jack – that everything started to make sense.
But don’t let a ghost scare you away from a good meal.
The restaurant is known for some of it’s true downhome style meals including smoked prime rib and smoked meatloaf. Their lunchtime sandwiches that a draw a crowd from Stockton Metro Airport’s surrounding business parks and people in Manteca looking for something a little bit different for a full meal.
Those who want to arrive early on Saturday and Sunday morning will find a champagne brunch off the menu with omelets leading the way.
“We get a lot of people that fly into the Stockton Airport that either find out about us online or drive by on their way to business and they stop in – some of them from all over the world,” Finley said. “It’s great to get to talk to people and find where they’re from and what they do it creates a whole different type of environment here.
“On some nights the bar will be full but there won’t be any cars in the parking lot because we get a lot of locals that come in. But there are all kinds of people that stop in, and that’s really why I wanted to do this 24 years ago.”
Finley’s is located at 10477 S. Airport Way just north of Manteca. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information call 209.983.9394.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.