PITTSFIELD — After a four-month break from the hectic restaurant business, the former owner of the Olde Heritage Tavern in Lenox is diving back in with a newly formed corporation and a soon-to-open location in Pittsfield.
John McNinch sold the tavern last April to Lenox-based restaurant entrepreneur Ryan Salame in a $1.5 million real estate transaction (plus an undisclosed amount for the value of the business). Now, he and his son, Tucker, plan to open a pub-style eatery in the Holiday Inn & Suites (formerly Crowne Plaza) at 1 West St. within a few weeks.
McNinch, 55, will be leasing the second-floor restaurant space formerly occupied by Jae’s One West, beginning with breakfast service at first, then adding lunch and dinner after the liquor license is secured.
The restaurant, called 101, will be “grill-style, sort of upper-end, not high-end approach, but that will depend on the head chef I bring in to come up with a direction they’d like to go in.”
Why 101? “Because we love our dog Taje, a Dalmatian, so it’s basically a play on the Disney movie, ‘101 Dalmatians.’ ”
“The biggest thing is going to be staffing it,” McNinch said, since most restaurants are confronting a shortage of line cooks, service staff and other personnel.
But the last thing he intends to do is to poach staff from the Heritage. “Ryan’s been very good to me, we communicate, and he congratulated me on the announcement,” he said. “I don’t want to steal his people; we have a great relationship.”
Acknowledging that it’s a tough time for a startup, McNinch emphasized a different vision for the new establishment. “We want to be employee-centered, trying to work out some health insurance and details for a profit-sharing thing for the staff,” he said.
“Everyone who works for us is going to be part of the team,” he stressed. “That’s going to be our focus, a little different from the way the industry has been for years, and we’re hoping that’s going to make a difference.”
The recently incorporated company, McNinch Restaurant Group LLC, is an all-in-the-family enterprise. Tucker McNinch, 25, a 2019 graduate of Northeastern University in business and finance, is listed as manager.
“Right now, everyone’s struggling, no one can get staff and we want to do things for the industry,” the father added. “We want to start a training program in restaurant operations, Tucker and I both want to work on that with the other restaurants, to place people in jobs once they’ve been trained in a work setting, so restaurants are getting employees who already have skills in the kitchen.”
“Tucker and I knew we were going to do something, we thought we would be managing restaurants and helping people operate them,” McNinch said. “But that opportunity sort of dried up, so this sort of fell into our laps.”
The Holiday Inn needed a new restaurant operator “because Jae’s was moving out, so one way or another, we ended up there,” he said. “We’re still finishing up the negotiations, and it’s a great opportunity for us and for them, so we’re excited to get started, but this is only the beginning.”
The McNinch team aims to open another eatery or two in Lenox at some point.
“We have a couple of locations we’re looking at, different things we want to do, not a ‘Heritage.’ I love Lenox, so hopefully it will work out, different style of restaurants, maybe doing some ‘grab and go’ things,” he said. “Those are our plans, but everything has to fall into place in the right way.”
Following an extensive $2.5 million to $3 million renovation, the 14-floor Holiday Inn & Suites reopened two summers ago. The hotel’s 20-year affiliation with the Crowne Plaza brand ended in January 2018.
Berkshire Hospitality Group LLC of Brooklyn, N.Y., owned by Anil Sachev, bought the hotel for $1.1 million at an April 2017 foreclosure auction.