By Stewart Grant
As I prepared to meet Jen Bradley this past weekend to discuss the closing of her beloved restaurant, I carried with me a copy of the newspaper article that Dan Rankin had wrote nearly five years earlier when “Jennies” opened for the first time (see copy below). I showed it to Jen, who said that she’d actually read through it again the previous night.
Given the chance to reflect on the time gone by, I asked her how reality had compared to her initial dreams when she started.
“It went even beyond,” she said with a smile. “Not just the restaurant, but catering really picked up as well, more than I expected.”
Jen said that what she enjoyed the most was seeing all the regular faces that visited her restaurant. Many groups would visit once a month, some once a week, and others, like Herb (whose chair she pointed out), were there every single day. She also talked about her staff that made each day great; these included her mother Sherrill Bradley, Julie Eaton, Kate Burnett, Amanda Ulch, Mona Hussein, Irene Wortley, and all her other employees over the years.
Five great years
Studies have suggested that only 20% of restaurants stay in business for five years. Jennies essentially reached this milestone, with an asterisk due to COVID.
“I only ever had a five-year business plan in my mind, and it was going great, then this (COVID) happened, so it just made it a little shorter,” Bradley said. “I actually see this as an opportunity to leave and to move on and to find something different. I’m seeing it as an open door right now.”
A time to relax
Bradley has worked in the restaurant industry ever since she turned 18, getting her start at the Parkview Creamery. She worked at the Creamery for 11 years before starting Jennies.
“I was here every day, there wasn’t a day I took off. I’m not a morning person so I’d get here a touch before 7 o’clock and stay here until 2 or 3. Then do some grocery shopping after, some clean-up, and a little extra prep if I had catering the next day.
“For now, I’m just going to take some time off for myself, but I really think I’m going to miss it. I know I am. Just the response on Facebook already from people has been really encouraging.”
With COVID largely having shut down the business aside from Friday night takeout meals (the last one was on June 19th), Jen has tried to find the positives, which include finding time for doing sudoku puzzles and enjoying some birdwatching.
“I’ve got a trailer out at Wildwood and now I’ve had the time to enjoy it all summer long. I’ve kinda been taking it easy, it’s actually been quite nice.”
I asked Jen what she wanted people from town to know when they read this story.
“I just want to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone. Thanks for making my dreams come true.”
By Stewart Grant