PERRY — If you’re running a restaurant, a good menu is superb. And a top-notch team is golden.
Jackie Billings-Barlow and her husband Travis are well-known for their dining ventures — places like the iconic Hole in the Wall Restaurant and the popular Ration Wine Bar on Main Street.
They’ll now be associated with another establishment in the village. They’ve bought The Lumberyard Restaurant & Party House, officially taking over operations last week.
They’re keeping the existing team in place and keeping things essentially the same.
“When we closed (the Hole in the Wall) in December 2020, that was a deliberate choice to make sure we got out of the restaurant business before we went into debt,” Billings-Barlow said. “That was strategic because we wanted to make sure that once this whole COVID disruption was over, which I estimated would be two to five years, that we would still be whole.
“ ... As time passed it became really clear that reopening the Hole In the Wall as the Hole in the Wall was kind of a mountain too big to climb,” she continued. “Our whole team had moved on. It really would be starting from scratch. We resigned that we were never going to do that again. But then the Lumberyard came on the market and I thought the price was affordable.”
That was nearly a year ago. She and Travis discussed the idea, toured the location, studied its numbers and decided to make an offer. “We really love the restaurant business and we love the Lumberyard,” she said. “That was my first job back in 1994. That’s where I got the bug to be in the restaurant business for the rest of my life and that’s where I learned most of my core values for the restaurant business — of course assimilated with my mother’s core values and Travis’ core values to be who we are. I was really excited and intrigued to throw our hat in the ring.”
The Lumberyard was a no-brainer, Billings-Barlow said. It’s been in business more than 40 years and is an institution, with generations of customers dining there regularly for special occasions.
It also has an established and expert team.
Christine Brown is the restaurant’s front house manager, who has been training and managing the rest of its team for decades. Her husband Brandon is its executive chef. “He’s running the kitchen and he does an incredible job,” Billings-Barlow said. “He’s just like Chris and runs a good ship. They are incredible leaders and they take care of business with passion, as if it’s their own business.” Nathan Hibbard has been recruited to serve as general manager and help oversee all Billings-Barlow and Travis’ businesses. She and Travis both have additional full-time jobs beyond the restaurants — which they enjoy — so Hibbard will help manage the various operations.
Jennifer Sealy will serve as operations manager at the Lumberyard, but will also handle all the financial details. They’re likewise working to recruit an events manager who can best connect customers and parties with the establishment they desire. As for the Hole in the Wall?
The location has been on pause since December 2020 but they’re working to resurrect it in mid-to-late spring. It will return with a new concept as a sports bar and lounge, focusing on wood-fired pizzas and fun.
Billings-Barlow emphasizes the team’s crucial contribution. They’re continuing the Lumberyard’s operations as before — the one exception being to diversify its bar offerings to match its level of cuisine even more closely.
She and Travis have additional ideas up their sleeves and want to ensure they’re free enough to be creative as the community continues its revitalization. The Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism has scheduled a special ribbon cutting has been set for 11:45 a.m. Saturday to help mark the Lumberyard’s new owners and future.
What’s it like to reemerge into the restaurant world?
“It’s like riding a bike honestly,” Billings-Barlow said. “It was like walk right in and I felt comfortable immediately. Again, that’s mostly because the Lumberyard has a strong team. “It’s not like we have to go in there and fix things,” she continued. “We don’t have to fix anything — it’s great. We just have to go in there and support this well-functioning team ... I love seeing customers I haven’t seen in years. Travis loves being busy with all the dishes that are coming through to order. Better yet, we love that we are part of it but not responsible for every single decision, because we put really capable people in place to do their jobs well.”