Part III: Dining out on the lure of a restaurant

By Cynthia Prairie
©The Chester Telegraph – 2014

T
he Chester Green not only has two new antique stores – the Bargain Corner, just east of the Moon Dog Cafe, and VintageVermont, opened by a Bartonsville family in the Spater Building. But its new restaurant – in the Victorian house at 90 The Common that at various times was Raspberries and Thyme, the Williams River Cafe and Alice’s Restaurant – has generated the most buzz and optimism.

The Paterno Building, becoming the home of the Free Range Restaurant.

The Paterno Building, becoming the home of the Free Range Restaurant.

As merchants Sharon Baker of Country on the Common and Michele Bargfrede of Sage Jewelry have observed, when a busy restaurant is in that space on the Green, their businesses do better. Diners who come for the destination restaurant will many times walk off their meal by shopping at Misty Valley Books, DaVallia Art and Accents, Country on the Common, Sage and Polish Pottery and the antique stores.

An Analysis: The Green in Chester’s Green
Part I: Chester’s Green a window into the health of its local economy
Part II: It’s not easy being The Green; Defining a unique space
Part III: Dining out on the lure of a restaurant

Both are looking forward to the day – Wednesday, Aug. 20 – when The Free Range restaurant opens its doors after months of planning and renovations. And they aren’t the only ones.

New restaurateurs Anne and Rick Paterno hope to help jump start the local economy.

New restaurateurs Anne and Rick Paterno hope to help jump start the local economy.

“I think The Free Range is great … and will be an anchor,” says Bob Flint, of the Springfield Regional Development Corporation.

And the importance of restaurants to a local economy cannot be underestimated. “The more good restaurants you have,” says Flint, “the more people will be attracted to an area. And more good restaurants are good for the community.”

The owners of The Free Range (what’s in a name? – see below*) are Anne and Rick Paterno, longtime second homeowners who decided to move to Chester full time and invest in the Vermont community that they have grown to love.

The Paternos believe they have developed a successful formula for their restaurant. Both bring years of business experience in marketing, administration, planning, sales and finance, as well as two outgoing but serious personalities. To that mix they have added Chef Michael Kennedy, a Chester resident who carries with him an excellent reputation from the Inn at Weston.

They also see contributing to their community as important parts of their mission. “Sixteen years ago,” says Rick Paterno, The Green “was vibrant, bustling. Then everything took a downturn. … we have to work on building that up again.” And both are “really happy” that new antiques stores have moved in.Free Range Logo

Anne Paterno says they hope to capture diners from local populations throughout the area, “as well as a fair share of the tourist trade,” adds Rick Paterno. “We’re going to work hard to offer a good value for the quality of the food,” he says, with sandwiches, salads and burgers priced between $8 and $12 and entrees in the $16 to $22 range.

The restaurant will be open five days a week, Wednesdays through Saturdays for lunch and dinner and Sundays for brunch. On designated holiday weekends – such as Memorial and Labor days — they intend to open for Sunday dinner and Monday lunch.

A successful Free Range will leverage more business for the Green and the town as a whole, but the problems identified in the first two parts of this series will continue to exist.  When Chester finds a way to lure Route 103 traffic to its downtown, entice Route 11 traffic to stop and establish a strong marketing identity in a competitive tourism market, it will achieve a large measure of the economic vitality it has been seeking.

* Rick Paterno understands the questions surrounding the name “The Free Range.” “As a marketer,” he says, “I like the controversy … because it has people talking.” So where did it come from? Says Anne Paterno, Rick’s family nickname is “Ranger Rick,” which was shortened to “Range.” This move to Chester, she has said, is “going to free Range of his corporate responsibilities.” And thus, a restaurant is christened.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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