The Job Interview: Bradford's Appleseed Restaurant celebrates 35th anniversary
The Appleseed Restaurant in Bradford, owned and operated by Peter and Mary Beth Fenton, is celebrating their 35th year in business this year. They were photographed at the restaurant Friday afternoon, January 18, 2013. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
For 35 years, running the Appleseed Restaurant in Bradford has been a family affair for the Fenton family, which includes husband and wife Peter and Mary Beth and sons Peter (known as RePete) and Tim.
Peter, 64, and RePete, 36, work together in the kitchen, while Mary Beth, 60, works the floor, talking with guests both familiar and new. Tim, 32, manages summer dinner cruises on the two ships the family owns, the MV Kearsarge and the MV Mt. Sunapee II. Mary Beth and Peter also live above the restaurant, which Peter jokes can sometimes be a curse.
The couple purchased the property, a barn and home that once served as an inn, 35 years ago after Peter worked as a head cook in a Connecticut restaurant and decided he wanted to open his own. It was named the Appleseed Inn when they purchased it, and they’ve developed a menu item to fit that namesake. The Fentons have taken on new ventures, such as purchasing the two ships, and had tough times – the Kearsarge sank just last week but will be fixed and running by summer.
But after 35 years, Peter says he still loves what he does and the people he serves.
How has your business grown over the past 35 years?
When we bought the place it was in pretty tough shape. We spent a lot of time and unfortunately money. A lot of our family and friends came up and helped us when it started. When we first opened, we just had the dining room going. It took us about a year to get the lounge up and running.
What is the history of the building?
It was a barn in a house that was connected by a walk through that eventually turned into the kitchen. There used to be a printing press out in the dining room. . . . It used to be called Lakeside Inn and when the trains ran, you would get off the train in Bradford and come up and stay for a while.
How did you get started with the dinner cruises?
My son worked for (someone) who used to own the MV Kearsarge, and at the end of one season (the owner) got a chance for a job but his kitchen had shut down, so Pete said ‘Why don’t you give us a try?’ We tried it; it worked out well. (The boat) changed owners and the new owner kept us on, too; but one day the previous owner came over and said ‘Would you be interested in buying it?’ We had done the food on it for a number of years.
How’s the damage to the Kearsarge?
It’s still too early to tell. We’re still in the midst of stuff with the insurance company. . . . It’s afloat and dry. We’re thinking pretty positive about it. The amount of people that have offered help – labor, equipment, just about anything you can think of – it’s been amazing. It makes you feel good about New Hampshire.
What is your clientele like?
We do have a lot of regulars, and we do get new people. Every now and then we’ll have somebody come in and say they’ve been going by the restaurant for years and never stopped in, and the first time they stop in they really enjoy it. We’ve gone through families of employees.
Do you have any signature menu items?
We do a cheese soup which is called a Duchess Soup that we’ve served from the day we’ve been open. We also have an item called Appleseed Chicken, a chicken breast glazed with maple syrup and topped with apple wedges and cheddar cheese.
What is the atmosphere at your restaurant like?
We’ve been very happy here, we’ve raised both our kids; it’s been a great environment for them. We just like to make people that come here enjoy themselves and have a good meal. . . . You’ll start out with a table of two and before you know it you have eight people and they all know each other. We call ourselves Team Appleseed, and some of our customers even consider themselves Team Appleseed.
Have your sons always been involved?
Peter went to culinary school, and Tim is more a front-end individual, he works very well with the public. I’m sure some of that has to be from both (of them) running around in the dining room when they were about 4 years old, and just getting a little training.
Thirty-five years is a long time to be in business. How has the economy affected your restaurant?
It’s been very interesting. When the economy was a little rocky we had a period in the ’80s that was pretty tough. And the last few years have been tough, but like I said, we have a lot of loyal people and we just kept going and now it’s coming back a bit.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We really enjoy it here. We have a lot of friends because of this business, and like I said we’ve had a lot of offers of help and anything that can be done for the Kearsarge. It’s just a very nice community.