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Back Bay Inn to reopen with new owners, new name
Vashon’s Back Bay Inn, a much-loved Burton establishment that closed last month, is poised to reopen under the ownership of well-known Islanders Troy Kindred and Marie Browne.
The couple have renamed the inn and eatery The Quartermaster Inn and Restaurant and will transform it into a more moderately priced version of the popular but upscale Back Bay Inn, they said.
“It will be a fun and friendly place with affordable food,” Browne said.
Browne and Kindred, who also own Keller Williams and The Loop, say they are already accepting reservations for rooms and hope to have the restaurant open by mid-April, after they have made renovations to the kitchen.
They’re not deterred, they added, at the thought of opening a new business in the midst of a recession.
“It’s a good time to start a business,” Browne said, noting that economic downturns raise the bar for businesses.
“It is not a time to get sloppy and lazy,” she added.
The Back Bay Inn, which has gone through a few incarnations since it opened more than a decade ago, recently came back onto the market under tough circumstances. John “Stormy” Storms and Victoria Davies, facing mounting debts and a pending foreclosure, shuttered the Burton establishment after a Valentine’s night dinner that packed the place.
Before letting go of the business, Storms and Davies had already begun to transform the white-linen-tablecloth eatery into a more casual place, dubbing it the Quartermaster Pub and adding a less expensive menu.
Browne and Kindred, patrons of the restaurant and friends of Storms and Davies, said they’ll continue in that vein, although they won’t go so far as to call it a pub, a word, they added, that conjures images for them of dart boards on the wall and peanuts shells on the floor.
“That just isn’t what the place is,” Browne said of the inn, which was built in the 1990s but has a Victorian feel.
What the establishment is, Browne and Kindred agree, is a community gathering place, and the couple have big plans to lure the community in.
The menu will expand and offer more vegetarian options and choices for those wanting to eat healthier, lighter fare. The fresh fish and high-quality steaks will remain on the menu, but overall the focus will be on “comfort food with panache,” Browne said.
“It will be someplace to drop in, have a bite to eat, have a glass of wine or a cocktail,” Browne said.
Given that Kindred is a musician — known to many as the frontman for the band Loose Change — there will be plenty of music, inside and out, though Kindred says they intend to be good neighbors and find out how amenable the neighbors are to outdoor music.
The two are also thinking about showing outdoor movies on the side of the Silverwood Gallery building across the road and have begun to talk with other Vashon restaurants to see how they might work together. They imagine offering, for example, a three-night package at the inn that would include one dinner there and dinners at other Island establishments as well.
While running a restaurant and an inn may seem far afield for two real estate agents, they say they’re up for the challenge.
Both have experience in restaurants. More importantly, they added, they also know how to run a business. Browne, who earned her degree in accounting while working “in all of Vashon’s restaurants,” was the vice president of operations at K2 for several years. Running any type of business requires a similar set of skills — as exemplified by the couple’s work at Keller Williams, which they plan to continue, they said.
“Real estate is all about customer service, quality and consistency,” Browne said. “The same is true for a restaurant.”
Browne and Kindred also say that what makes businesses run smoothly are good systems and processes — and a good team. To that end, they plan to bring back many of the old employees, who are going through an application process to make sure things are a good fit all the way around.
When Kindred and Browne ate at the restaurant under Storms and Davies’ ownership, they never imagined they would be its owners one day. Indeed, when the business started to falter, Kindred and Browne worked with the couple to come up with ideas to avoid foreclosure, and when Storms and Davies put it on the market, Kindred and Browne showed the business to several potential buyers.
Kindred and Browne ended up taking over the business through their friend, Islander Armen Yousoufian, a businessman and private lender who originally financed Storms and Davies’ purchase of the inn.
Like Browne and Kindred, Yousoufian said he worked with Storms and Davies to help them stave off foreclosure. But as the couple got further behind in their payments, Yousoufian said he reluctantly proceeded to foreclosure this year, and the building reverted to him last month.
In talking about the situation with Yousoufian, Kindred told him that he should at least find people to run the business since it would be a shame for the building — a community asset — to sit empty.
Yousoufian looked to Kindred, the real estate agent recalled, and said, “What about you guys?”
Kindred said they talked about the idea with Storms and Davies and moved ahead.
“We have jumped in with both feet,” he said. “We’re going to take what’s really great and improve what’s not.”