It’s the Climb

It’s the Climb

It’s the Climb

So here’s the truth. This hasn’t been easy. I’ve painted some pictures of how lovely this experience has been, moving to this town, announcing our plans to restore a beloved landmark and making it an elegant and inviting destination restaurant once again. I’ve told you a little about the talented uplifting people who have come alongside us since we took-on this project. But the gap between purchasing this building and opening the doors, the path that leads from one big decision to the goal can feel like a bit of a pilgrimage.

The journey, thus far has been so rewarding but, at times, it has felt vast, exposed and without distinction or guideposts. Other times it has felt narrow, craggy and dark. Hard to see the path ahead.

We knew this would be a big undertaking for our family and did not expect smooth sailing. I had seen enough Grand Design to know things never go as planned when you rehab an old building and we’ve spent enough time in the restaurant industry to know nothing comes easy there. But adding the task of a big historic rehab to opening and operating a farm-to-table-as-possible restaurant all while telling anyone who will listen that it’s what you’re gonna do, darn it…well, we’ve set ourselves up for some pressure.

Fortunately, we have received incredible support and encouragement. It is fuel for us. We believe in this project. By exposing ourselves and our intentions, we are finding more and more neighbors, farmers, craftsmen, artists, family and friends from all over who believe in it, too.


We drive from Pittsburgh to New Wilmington and watch the buildings and development give way to houses dotting the land and they, too eventually fall away to woods broken by rolling pasture and farms. A verdant Pennsylvania countryside. The houses start springing up again as we make our way back to our home but nothing feels condensed or crowded. This town is small, smaller than most small towns but that is what gives it so much of its charm.

Pasture outside New Wilmington, Pennsylvania

Pasture outside New Wilmington, Pennsylvania

When a town is this small, however, foot traffic is low. Businesses on ‘Main Street’ in a town the size of New Wilmington depend on visitors, or tourists. For many businesses, locals can’t supply enough demand to keep them afloat. The business goes away without demand and you’re left with empty buildings in a tiny town. Not so charming. That was where things were when we moved here. Businesses closing. Not being replaced. Empty storefronts. Dusty windows.

We know the energy and development happening north of Pittsburgh in thriving towns like Zelienople and Harmony will continue to grow and come up Highway 79. This is good for our business as well as the local entrepreneurs who’ve weathered the last few years and the hopeful ones who’ve recently hung their shingle.

A walk in New Wilmington 2023

A walk in New Wilmington 2023

It is a unique situation we find ourselves in, New Wilmington. Fortunate, really. Small towns need economic development to survive, but we don’t want to be swallowed up by too much development. Family farms breaking-up and being sold off, it is happening around us. But large scale development is unlikely, as long as the Amish hold most of the farmland up here.

But it’s always a risk, right? Starting a business. The demand wasn’t obvious when we bought The Tavern. There wasn’t much foot traffic. We aren’t from here. We didn’t really know how important this landmark was to so many people.

We’ve since learned. As we saw enthusiasm for this project grow, our confidence has grown, too. We believe this will be a successful business that brings visitors to this place, helping to enhance that charm.


And now, I would like to thank you for sticking with us with a proper update. After months of planning and securing the right person for each role in this remodel we have ‘broken ground.’

Last week, the new-build contractor, TJ Rollinson mapped out the addition to the kitchen and started demo. At about the same time, the restoration contractor, Nate Heckathorn brought his team in to make a game plan with Matt and they have also started their work.

I cannot express how happy I am to report that the ball is rolling!

Rollinson Construction Inc. mapping out the kitchen addition at The Tavern 2023

Rollinson Construction Inc. mapping out the kitchen addition at The Tavern 2023

As TJ and Nate get cracking on the building, we’re also focusing on interior finishes and curating our inventory for the Mercantile, our little shop that will be housed in the building next to the Tavern that once served as a the original owner, Dr. Poppino’s office in the mid 1800’s.

Tavern Merch coming soon!

Tavern Merch coming soon!

We’re also building our restaurant operations team and developing the vision for our professional culture. Who are we and what are we all about?

We’re actively interviewing back of house staff. We’re continuing to build relationships with local growers and navigating the path from the farm…to the butcher…to the kitchen…to the table and meeting and connecting all the people along the way.

So it feels like we’ve made it over another hurdle. The purchase of the building and the liquor license was our first. This stretch has been a long one but now that we’re done with planning the remodel and we’re actually in motion, I’d like to say we can take a deep breath and move on to the next thing. But there are no deep breaths, yet. This is all consuming but it’s good. As Matt says, ‘What else are we here for, to watch the flowers grow? We’ve got things to do!’

Well, I still watch the flowers grow when I’m cleaning up my kitchen sink but my mind is on sconces in the upstairs bar, or how to make something vegan and delicious for our friend, Jason when he comes in to the restaurant.

It’s dynamic. It’s challenging. It’s exciting and it never stops but we are in it together and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of it.

With gratitude,

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