Growing up Restaurant
As I prepared to head back to Maine for my second season in Oqunquit there was one problem, no cash. We had made good progress the previous year but the season is only 10 weeks long and the restaurant had been bankrupt and was a gay destination and as I indicated in an earlier writing. I didn’t know how to pull off a gay Italian restaurant or I might have tried. I had worked the winter in my Mothers Restaurant and was ready to get back to Maine.
I was trying to raise some cash to get back open and a good friend and customer of my mother’s reached into his pocket and handed me 5,000 in cash. Doesn’t seem like much in the scope of what I just went through these last two years at Bove but it was going to get me open.
That wasn’t the end of it. I had everything packed up in the truck and was on my way to Maine. As I traveled from Rutland over Killington Mountain and onto Maine I decided to make one more stop for one last Vermont cocktail. I stopped at a legendary watering hole with one of the top bartenders on the mountain tending. The Back Behind Saloon a great spot and very popular with locals and tourist alike. There was a bartender there by the name of JD. As I enjoyed my beverage and chatted with JD one thing led to another and JD left his shift that night, we went to his house and he told his wife he was my new partner and we were heading to Maine…that night! She was ok with it and a new era began. I sent the money back to the other guy said thanks but no thanks and off we went. Of course there was no paperwork just a hand shake, the good old days!
JD was struck by the beauty of the spot when we arrived about a 3 hour drive from his house in Killington. We opened and we were the hot spot, we were just crushing it we had to hire police just to maintain decorum in our parking lot, we had valet parking and lord have mercy let the party begin. We served basically Italian food and turned into a disco at 10 PM. Customers were hanging from the rafters and we were open until the wee hours of the morning and would watch the sunrise many a morning like vampires.
Still sitting at the corner booth as they were my whole first year were the gang from Boston with no shortage of dubious credit cards to close their bills with. JD was none too sure about these guys and they were pretty clear about just dealing with me, they didn’t much care for new people. JD tolerated it because they spent so much money.
It was an incredible summer 10 weeks only so nobody got rich but I was young and it was all about the journey in those days. We worked all night into the wee hours slept until late morning and went out to eat as much lobster as we could every day at lunch. One of our favorite places when not eating lobster was the Shack and their famous Junk Burger with everything on it except the kitchen sink. A famous customer was George W Bush Senior Vice President at the time. He would come to the shack via his beautiful Crist Craft wooden boat. They would make their way on a calm day from his home in Kennebunkport Me just up the water a piece. There would be 4 or 5 of the exact same boats so you didn’t know which boat George was on. Rumor had it he had a thing for those junk burgers!
We would spend one more summer in Maine but my wife Linda was pregnant with my first son Peter and the decision to not return was made. We decided to settle down at my mother’s restaurant and not go back. Peter JR was born at the end of August my third year in Maine and another chapter would unfold.
We had been home for about six months when I approached my mother about expanding the restaurant for the hundredth time. We were only 55 seats and were turning away more business than we were doing. My mother liked to control me so she gave me just enough cash to pay my mortgage and tried to provide all our other needs, car, food and alike so she stayed in total control. Linda worked a few nights waiting on table really just to get out of the house; she was great at it and made pretty good money.
It finally came to pass that I had to threaten to leave before my mother would take the restaurant expansion seriously. I had a child now, another one coming and couldn’t live like my mother on nothing. This would bring about a day I will never forget as long as I live. Sitting at the back room table my mother finally broke and said ok to the expansion. The restaurant was our home a duplex home and the expansion would basically consist of opening the wall from the main dining room and this would double the size of the restaurant to 100 plus seats. Nobody used these rooms and there was 11 bedrooms on the second two floors.
My mother had always acted as though she didn’t have a nickel never spent 5 cents on herself. The property was paid for so there was no debt and my mother had never borrowed a dime in her life. She didn’t trust banks, lawyers, doctors or much of anybody for that matter she was sure that if we purchased our cheese graded that the vendors would cut it with something we didn’t want to know about. She always made me grate it by hand 40 lb wheels. She didn’t like the way the machine did it!
As we sat at the table and I laid out my plans for the expansion she reluctantly listened and with a shiver in her voice said” I HAVE SOME MONEY PUT AWAY FOR YOU AND YOUR SISTER FOR WHEN I DIE, I WILL GIVE YOU YOURS NOW TO DO WITH WHAT YOU WANT”. She was always playing the it’s my time card with me! Italian mothers wrote the book on guilt especially for their sons.
My chin was hanging open as she indicated that she was going to GET the money upstairs. By the way this was 1980-81 the peanut farmer was in the white house and the banks were paying 16% on CD’S. However my mother’s life savings from 35 years working on the stove was in her closet. Unfortunately was is the key word! I will never forget the sound she made!
God rest her soul she and we were never the same again.
Be well, eat well, live well and we look forward to your next visit to Bove.