Old Brick Caf

Restaurant shut down before Christmas

Jan. 15, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Old Brick Café has shut down again, but owner David Herskowitz plans to resurrect the restaurant with a new name and a liquor license.

The café, the only eatery in Williston Village and one of the few in town that aren’t part of a chain, closed just before Christmas. Melissa Blanchard and Scott Nicholson had operated the café for less than five months.

Herskowitz, who leased the café to Blanchard and Nicholson but continued to own the building, was circumspect about the closure.

“They were unable to meet their contractual obligations to me,” he said.

Pressed for more information, Herskowitz said the couple had trouble making payments on the lease and the restaurant’s equipment.

Blanchard acknowledged the café had struggled in recent months. She said business began dropping as the economy soured.

“It had just got to the point that we could no longer fulfill our obligations with the lease,” she said. “With the economy and people’s finances bad, people stopped going out to eat.”

Still, Blanchard said the eviction took her by surprise. She said only one payment was missed and thought there was an understanding with Herskowitz that they would be allowed to reopen the restaurant after returning from an out-of-state trip to visit family over the holidays.

The couple cleaned out the restaurant and left a hand-written note on the door apologizing for the abrupt closure.

“It has been a pleasure serving each and every one of you,” the note said. “Thank you for your support.”

The closure is the second since the café first opened in March 2005. The café shut down in September 2007 after Herskowitz concluded he was tired of running the restaurant. Located on U.S. 2 across from Town Hall, the building remained vacant for almost a year before Blanchard and Nicholson reopened the café in August.

Now Herskowitz hopes to reopen, possibly by the summer. He recently applied for a liquor license, which he said is essential for a successful restaurant. He wants to set up a separate area near the entrance that would feature a small bar area where high-end microbrews and wine would be served.

Herskowitz said he will rename the café. He is still thinking about the new moniker but is leaning toward including “tavern” in the name.

He said he will eliminate breakfast and lunch hours because there are not enough customers at those times. He will instead serve dinner while keeping the popular Sunday brunch.

Herskowitz is also looking for a partner who is passionate about the restaurant business “so I don’t have to do everything by myself again, which is exhausting.”

The restaurant has enjoyed a loyal following but struggled to accommodate customers in its small parking lot. Attempts to expand the lot were rebuffed by the town because it would impact wetlands.

Blanchard said the location, miles away from other restaurants and the bustle of Taft Corners, “leaves a lot to be desired.” She also noted that the historic home that houses the business does not appear to be a restaurant and so is overlooked by potential customers.

Herskowitz brushed off a suggestion that the café is fated to fail.

“Nah, when I ran it, I did a good job and it did a good business,” he said. “Personally, it just didn’t work well for me.

“Now that I’ve been away from it, I’m seeing the opportunity in a better light, both in terms of lifestyle and as a business.

For me, now it’s just a better fit.”


Physical therapist to open upstairs

The space upstairs from the Old Brick Café, formerly occupied by the Ayurvedic Center of Vermont, will soon host a business that offers an alternative to traditional physical therapy.

Chris Herskowitz, a licensed physical therapist whose husband David plans to reopen the recently shuttered café, intends to open a business called Body Connections.

The practice, however, will not focus on traditional physical therapy, she said. Instead, it will concentrate on what is known as craniosacral therapy, which focuses on the cranium and the spine. That type of therapy is more of a “mind-body approach,” she said.

The business will be a part-time operation, said Herskowitz, who will also continue her employment as a traditional physical therapist. The opening date has yet to be determined.