Business Name: The Village Inn and Red Brick Cafe
Opening Date: January 2017
Number of Employees: Two full-time and four part-time
Location: 1 Star Way, Port Henry, NY 12974
Tim Bryant and his stepson, Timur, opened the Red Brick Café in downtown Port Henry in 2017. Since opening, the café and inn have built a local and regional following. Read below to learn more about this local start-up success story.
Tell us about your company and your start-up story:
In 2011, I purchased a neglected, historic building on Main Street. I had no plan, I just loved the façade and location of the building, but it was in rough shape. If someone didn’t deal with it in the near future, most likely it would be torn down.
I stabilized the building and slowly prepared for a major renovation once I decided what to do with it. During this time Pride of Ticonderoga was working with the village of Port Henry on a Main Street grant. At the same time my stepson, Timur, moved home from Shanghai and was looking for a career change. Together, we joined the Pride effort and came up with a boutique hotel/café concept that we thought the town really needed. The Main Street Grant was a great help in getting the property rehabbed. We were also able to use funding from the Essex County IDA toward the actual business operations, which helped it get off the ground.
We have a beautifully renovated and decorated facility. The cafe downstairs seats 30 inside and 28 outside on the deck, and we have four newly renovated hotel rooms upstairs with private baths, a/c, Wi-Fi, etc. We are very pleased by the way the business has been accepted in the local community, and with the transient tourist traffic that passes our front door.
Why did you start your business in the Lake Champlain Region?
I grew up in the area but lived overseas for most of my professional career. In 2009, we moved back to Port Henry to be close to family and have access to the lake and mountains. I love the area and wanted to find a way to give back, and this ended up being one of the ways we’re doing that.
What challenges have you faced in growing your business?
We had no experience in this area of business, so that made things challenging. We started out slowly, kept things simple, and tried to get things right to avoid any major disasters. We had the resources to go at our own pace and this was really a blessing. It is easy to overextend yourself, and we managed to keep things simple and deliver a service and product for which customers are willing to come back.
What are some of your business highlights since opening?
First, we have a strong core, a local crowd that supports us throughout the year, and we are proud to have a place like this in their town.
Second is the diversity of the people who come through the door; having not been in the business before we really didn’t know. We also have a lot of regulars coming from neighboring towns, Vermont, and even Canada. Port Henry is an eastern gateway to the Adirondacks with the Lake Champlain Bridge. This puts a lot of traffic from New England right at our doorstep.
Where do you see your business going in the future?
While we’ve built a good base, we need to keep growing. It is a seasonal area so anything we can do to increase utilization or sales per customer will make a huge difference. We’ll keep testing the waters with new offerings and look at what is happening in the market.
What’s your favorite thing to do in your downtime?
Recently there’s no such thing as downtime, but if I had some I would like to sit by the lake with a book or go fishing.
Any advice for other people looking to move or start a business in the Lake Champlain Region?
Starting a business: There’s potential but it is not endless. Your business needs to draw on a bigger market than just the local one. The locals will support you, but there just isn’t enough of them to keep you afloat.
Moving to the area: In a lot of ways this is a great place to retire to if you are active. The cost of living in Port Henry is relatively low, views and access to Lake Champlain are great, and you have easy access to Lake Placid, Middlebury, Burlington, Montreal, and New York City via Amtrak.