Well, we were busy out of the gate, we were we were rather surprised. We opened only with 16 seats inside and about a dozen outside. And we thought we just catered for the local community. So we started to open it for my younger sister to run. And, you know, we didn’t expect much we found out was the hole in the marketplace was all over the place. And people came from 30 minutes 45 minutes away to eat with us. And many folks don’t man, you kind of our town because it’s missing all over the place. So our business like ooh, like, Man, I remember the first Columbus Day weekend, we were so busy man literally ran up close on Tuesday, and get an order on Wednesday to regroup and get going. So but it was it worked right out of the gate and bro right out of the gate. And within three or four years it was you know, well known.
Chad Franzen 13:36
When and why did you decide to open your next restaurant then?
Barry Jessurun 13:40
Yeah, so that class I told you about in California. I learned quite a bit from there. And what I kind of learned was that one restaurant wasn’t going to produce enough money to take care of owning a home, saving for retirement saving for college kids just wasn’t gonna do it. Now, if I was in a city somewhere earlier, gentlemen, five or $6 million a year, probably one restaurant, a small town. And so we looked at selling it. And then realized that the value that we had created over 10 years was in the story, right? The story of the film scene. And how far and why does it become known was actually more valuable than any money we would have gotten out. So we decided we would leverage the story and look for another place to open but something different. We’re looking to just sort of fill the marketplace holes in our area. So the next thing we went after is the high end, full service restaurants because a lot of people in this area would go to Providence or they go to West Hartford or they’d go down to the shore for a really good dining experience. You know, they’re driving half hour, 45 minutes to an hour. And it wasn’t so much the drive there. The problem was to drive home. Right so what we cured was good food with a short drive home. And that’s okay. took about three years to get that off the ground because it was it was a reach, we were in one of those old mill towns that had, you know, had died in the 70s. And been trying to come back. And after about three years, you know, we got our feet under us, we were doing okay, we put an outdoor patio, and we actually leased the parking spaces in front of the building from the town. So we could create this curbside appeal. And that was one of the main things that pushed it over. And then we started doing oyster festivals. And we did those for four years. And that just put that town of putting them on the map. We got no for oysters and rahbar and, and then that that business took off.
Chad Franzen 15:35
And is that 85 Main? Is that weird? That’s 85 Main. Yeah, yeah. And then what about the Dog Lane cafe that opened in 2011? What led to that?
Barry Jessurun 15:46
Yeah, so that was, you know, that was one of those underrepresented towns where a lot of people from there came to us and said, You need to open up and llbean down by stores, you know, because it’s the University of Connecticut, there’s 20 30,000 students, 10,000 adults, and everything was catered to students with very little in the high, mid and upper for adults just wasn’t there. You know, it was an agricultural college, there was no town there was there was nothing, trying to find a space down there to do it was almost impossible. We check tires for years. And finally, somewhere it was around 2000 2001, they decided they were going to look into the idea of building a town in this stores area. And so I signed up, I paid my dues. And you know, I went to meetings occasionally tracked the progress of the building this town, it was the fifth time in University’s history that this has been tried. So a lot of people weren’t paying attention. Or like, Oh, that’s not gonna work. It didn’t work the last time it’s never gonna work. But I was paying attention. And literally, I was the first person to call when the email came out and said, they’re looking for tenants, you know, to sign letters of intent, they weren’t even ready for the email went out. And it’s like, we’re not ready. You know, two weeks later, we finally met with them. And we are like the first person to show up, we are exactly what they were looking for. And they weren’t people we could work with. And so we ended up getting the prime location of the first building, and, you know, hit the ground running, pretty much work right out of the gate.
Chad Franzen 17:12
So what can what can a customer expect when they go there,
Barry Jessurun 17:15
that’s built into a brand new building, it’s got a really cool inner vibe, feeling. Lots of all the walls are created by art artists. So there’s no art on the wall. It’s actually the walls themselves aren’t that it’s kind of the colors are warm, and coffee and southwest without the southwest. It’s the Dog Lane theme kind of runs throughout kind of quietly. But again, it’s limited service or fast casual, as we call it, our staff there is trained interact, you know, because there’s always new people coming in, because it’s a university. So they always have to expect that someone coming through the door is new. So a lot of them go out and they greet them, you know, hey, how you doing? If you’ve been here before, and they explain the service. I mean, you know, that doesn’t happen in America. I mean, just does not happen and that kind of thing. So you know, and then we have a barista location where they’re doing all kinds of coffee drinks, Chai drinks, smoothies, and that’s a whole section itself. And the other section is all open kitchen. As you can see the whole thing, it’s soups and sandwiches and, you know, grill stuff that wraps daily specials, like so it’s dynamic, there’s, you know, 600 people a day go through the door, they’re on an average day,
Chad Franzen 18:21
you opened Fenton River Grill in 2018. What led to that
Barry Jessurun 18:26
our customers that Dog Lane said, Hey, we really liked the fast casual thing you’re doing here. We love the quality of food, but there’s nothing for us adults who want to go get a glass of wine or a beer have a cheese plate or something like that. Something to share someplace to go after work. Again, it’s mostly catering towards students without a lot of, you know, adult stuff going on. And a few that were there were, you know, playing in a higher quality game. So we looked for a number of years, never really found anything close to the university. It was actually the town mayor came to me one day and said, Hey, what about this particular place? It was five miles away. We went looked at it decided really wasn’t gonna work. It was too small. The landlord came back to us afterwards and said, Look, I can move one of the tenants because their tenant will certainly stand out and they never renewed. So if we get that space, will it be big enough? Will it work? You know, and after doing the math and doing some sketches? I’m like, Yeah, that’ll work for us. So we went and did that. And it’s basically it’s like, it’s a local causes 20 beers on tap, great craft cocktails, lots of shareable food, you know, the way that young people want to eat. They don’t want to pay for the extra class where the extra silverware tablecloth can’t, you know, they know that I want this one good food, you know, good drinks, good service. And that’s kind of what it’s geared toward.
Chad Franzen 19:40
So you’ve you’ve got four restaurants, and one of which has been around for more than 30 years. What are some things that you’re particularly proud of in your career? In the restaurant industry?
Barry Jessurun 19:51
We’re still here. The average the average life expectancy of any business United States is eight and a half years. You know, the average is expected ces restaurants somewhere around the same area. And, you know, we say that it’s not like they failed. I mean, I know a lot of people who got in the business and got out because they just didn’t want to do it, they’re working too hard. It’s, you know, the business was doing fine. They just didn’t want to do it anymore. Because, you know, it’s the same with any business. You know, when you get into it, then you really learn what it’s all about, you go, Oh, I like the idea to begin with, I don’t want to do it. And that’s the case, a lot of times, we hear the word failure, we think, Oh, my God failures. But that’s not always the case. But our story was to keep it going. And to try and create a life for ourselves and the people around us, we took on partners so we can help them create the life that they wanted to create. And it’s really, we function in northeastern Connecticut for a reason. It’s because it’s the quality of life that we get living out here. You know, I’m literally less than a half hour from all the places that we home, and I’m, you know, I’m an hour and 10 minutes from Boston, I’m an hour from the shore, you know, I can get places pretty simply Boston’s only an hour and 10 minutes away. I’ve done daytrips in New York City, you know, so we’re close enough everything but still living out in the country. You know, I have one traffic light on my way to work.
Chad Franzen 21:08
So what are some, what do you think are some key reasons for that longevity, especially with Philippine cafe.
Barry Jessurun 21:15
It’s just the quality and the consistency of the offer. We are on the state’s longest scenic highway, we get customers who come once a year, we have customers who come you know, when they’re passing through, we’re one of those central locations, those meeting locations for people and other areas. So we become a meeting place. We are a destination for road enthusiasts, people, you know, from motorcycles to cars to you know, there’s there’s different groups that meet here all summer long, you know, the Mustang club, the aged club, the 1915, before club, the Harley riders, the Yankee BMW riders, it’s, it’s become a destination for all kinds of people like that. And then it gets your standard people just coming through, it’s kind of like a show to a certain degree, the patio is out front, you know, the parking lots up front. If you just want to come and get a soda or coffee, you can do that. If you want to come and get the full meal, you can do that you want to come and just get a soup or chili, you can do that. Nobody’s pressuring you to leave nobody’s you know, it’s just it’s a very easy place to be. And the quality is just always there, mainly because my brother and I are here my office is in this is in the middle of it has a lot of hands on. No, it’s not like a lot of people, they start a business and then they have other people run it. You know, we’re here, we’re here telling the story. And that’s why when you introduced me, you said I’m Chief storyteller, we continue to tell the story. That’s why Coca Cola keeps advertising. You know, everybody in the world knows Coca Cola, why are they advertising? Because they have to keep telling the story. Right? So we’re successful, because we’re really good storytellers.
Chad Franzen 22:49
A part of that journey included the recent pandemic, how has that kind of changed or affected operations at your locations,
Barry Jessurun 22:58
it was to begin with difficult because we had to retool and figure out how to survive, our main goal was to remain open, and to keep everybody employed who wanted to be employed. And then we’d figure the rest out. Two of our businesses were debt free, so we weren’t too concerned there. One was, you know, seven, eight years old, had some debt, but not too bad, we could figure it out. The other one was fairly new, and we had some deep concerns about survival. And we did our best to do that. Fortunately, that one actually benefited the most, because we lost a lot of our staff. But then we were able to grow it back up organically. Instead of like, Oh, here’s this new restaurant, you have all these new employees right? Now, it’s like, here’s this restaurant, everybody knows what it is. So the right people started to show up. And we created a team there. And now it’s that restaurants actually knocking it out of the park, it’s been doing business better than it was when we first opened. It literally just it just be, you know, our first couple of weeks of operation. So that’s, that’s really good. We won some great awards last year for the beginning of this year. Best New American best appetizers, best beer selection, and best in overall excellence for all restaurants within the county from Connecticut magazine. And then I got the staff jazzed up to so they you know, it’s all part of the story that one’s doing doing well, actually, because the others had varying degrees of success or suffering to through it all. But our commitment is owners to keep it going no matter what. And then the government’s step in to say, hey, look, we’re gonna help this we did this to you. That helped a lot. You know, it helped us with our mindset gone. Now we don’t have this worry. Now. Oh, my God, I’m going to be in debt for another 10 years, you know, we’re able to breathe easier and go, Okay, let’s, let’s do this. Let’s get out of this. Let’s grow this. And I think because we’ve been around for so long. People acquainted us with safety, as well as the quality so we had people come here. We’re also destinations people get out of the cities and go to the country so that helped them a lot in places in Canada. If that were like that along the shore, they did well during the summer. We also all our restaurants have outdoor seating. And it’s one of the main themes of our of our restaurants. Like when we opened our fourth restaurant, we actually had to get the patio approved by the town before we would sign the lease. We had the landlord paid for half the patio, because it was gonna be his watered down anyway. You know, so we had that all had to be negotiated. But if we couldn’t get a patio, we weren’t going to do it. That’s how important that was. And it turned out to be more important than we realized because of the pandemic. So,
Chad Franzen 25:35
okay, well, hey, very nice. Congratulations on your longevity and all your success. How can I have one more question for you? But first, how can people find out more about your restaurants associated with Green Valley Hospitality? Well,
Barry Jessurun 25:45
Well, GreenValleyHospitality.com is of course the easiest way you can get links to all the sites from there. That’s that’s kind of easiest, because you’ll find all the places we are in northeastern Connecticut. We are all of them are destination restaurants, people drive an hour or more to hit these places. No, and the book is thedrunkardspath.com. So you can find information there there’s links to buying on Amazon to Audible and buying directly from us, which actually helps better because the offer actually makes money when you do it that instead of the machine. Oh, you buy from Amazon. Oh, that helps because then it gets out of the account. But it helps me pay back my, my printing costs for me. Sure, sure.
Chad Franzen 26:24
Hey, when you when you got last question for you, when you go to the Vanilla Bean, what’s as a customer, what’s kind of your go to item.
Barry Jessurun 26:33
So we personally are what’s our best selling you personally. So I tend to like breakfast here. Breakfast is really really good. It’s high quality local farmers banks, high quality pixelize bacon. I love our egg sandwich. It’s great. Other than that, I do have sandwiches because we offer a half sandwich on the menu. A lot of times, you know, we make a big sandwich and a half. It’s just right in the middle of the day for me. Other people, you know, they can eat a whole sandwich. Not me. Yeah. We also do local beef burgers, which I think is probably the thing I probably the most of we are known for Chili Chili is probably one of our best selling menu items. It’s been on the menu since we opened and we build through tons of
Chad Franzen 27:20
Okay, great. What what’s what sets the chili apart?
Barry Jessurun 27:24
I call it a New England style jelly. It’s not too hot. You know, it’s got some heat. I really can’t tell you what it is that people really like about it, I can tell you that it’s not offensive. Like some chilies. They’re either too hot or too medium or too tomato li or, you know, there’s something that’s just not quite. This one sort of goes down the middle, we have a few more vegetables in it than most chilies have. We use ground beef, it’s a little easier to eat and two than the other stuff. And I use about five different spices. So the heat goes all the way through the flavor, rather than being something in one or two spots is from when you smell it all the way to your swallow. And you’re just hitting every aspect of it, but not not hot enough. Most people can’t eat it.
Chad Franzen 28:12
Sure, sure. Well, sounds great. Sounds great. Hey, Barry, I really appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.
Barry Jessurun 28:17
Great. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much.
Chad Franzen 28:19
Thank you so long, everybody.
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