Major losses from a storm last summer combined with a continuing troubled economy to deliver a one-two punch that has the owners of the Old Town Inn considering options for the Uptown business.
Jesse Hardy and his wife, Sarah, opened the restaurant in 2006. He brought with him a background in the business; before buying the Old Town Inn, he was an executive chef with the Bravo group and also helped design the concept for the J. Liu Restaurant and Bar in Dublin.
Now, he said, they are dealing with rumors that the Inn is closing.
That’s not true, although Hardy said the couple just signed papers with a Realtor to put the restaurant on the market.
“Selling is not set in stone,” he said, acknowledging that it’s a pretty tough time to sell a “mom-and-pop” business.
But they’re still looking at other options for several reasons. They have three children younger than 9 and running a small business and chasing the kids is getting tough. They also are trying to find ways to combat the effect the economy has had on many local small businesses.
“Sales aren’t what they were five or six years ago and I think we see it especially at dinner,” Hardy said.
The couple also is considering a concept change, such as serving breakfast and lunch through the week and serving dinner only on weekends.
“We’d like to offer something people can afford more regularly than, say, a $20 steak,” he said. “The economy is certainly part of it. I won’t say that’s everything, but I’ve talked to other business owners in the area, too, and they say it’s been tough on them the last couple of years, as well.”
Like many local business owners, Hardy is working with TEAM Marysville to try to increase business traffic in Uptown Marysville.
“TEAM Marysville developed a program (called) ‘I Dine Local.’ We, being the Uptown businesses, are offering incentives for people to stay local,” Hardy said. “A lot of time when people go out to eat, they want to shop or see a movie. It’s a date-night-destination thing. We don’t have a lot of entertainment options in Uptown Marysville.”
TEAM Marysville is an association of Marysville officials, business owners and residents, established to help improve economic conditions in the Uptown District.
Eric Phillips, executive director of the Union County Economic Development Partnership, said there are four committees within TEAM Marysville focusing on attracting, retaining and creating business and on civic infrastructure.
In the last five years, he said, the city and county have invested $10 million in Uptown Marysville.
“I think that shows the commitment of both the city and county to see Uptown be successful,” Phillips said.
The most recent TEAM Marysville meeting was held at the Old Town Inn and Phillips said the Hardys addressed the rumors about the business closing.
“They gave a good talk about how they want the community to support them,” he said. “They’ve had a tough year this year – the toughest year they’ve ever had – and we should support them. I think that’s true of all businesses in the community.”
The restaurant suffered some major losses after a storm last summer knocked out a wall at the neighboring Fieste Grande restaurant and caused emergency evacuations of neighboring buildings.
“We weren’t allowed in the building for a week,” Hardy said. “We lost a week’s worth of purchasing. Insurance covered some of it, but it didn’t cover lost sales or lost salaries.”
For now, he said, they have the restaurant on the market only because they would like a little more stability when it comes to their children.
“We’d like to have set days off and be able to take a vacation every year,” he said.
For now, though, they have no short-term plan to close.
“We’re still here,” Hardy said.