|Former Adrien's Diner Transformed Into New Vegan Restaurant|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
07:48AM / Sunday, December 23, 2018
|Shari Peltier has been working on opening the diner for the last eight months and finally the doors will be opened.|
Despite being unable to accommodate wheelchairs inside the building, Peltier doesn't want anybody to miss out. She installed an intercom for those in wheelchairs to place orders to go and staff will bring the food to them.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Shari Peltier's daughter is a vegetarian and it is difficult when they go out to eat in local establishments.
"Whenever we would go out to dinner the only thing the kid could order was pasta. There was never any options for her," Peltier said.
That will change in a couple weeks. Peltier is opening Thrive,
a vegan diner, in the former Adrien's location on Wahconah Street.
She purchased the structure back in April, updated it, worked through all of the permitting, and now is going through the final steps before opening the doors.
"I have created a restaurant where my daughter can eat everything on the menu," she said.
"There are some many people with limited or restricted diets that are not being served in all of the pubs and fast food restaurants around town. They're not being fully accommodated. People are looking at this and saying 'oh my God, I can eat everything on the menu.'"
She's been cooking meat-free for years now at home and has now taken on a project to provide more food options to people in the community with restricted diets. The menu offers items that are gluten-free, soy-free, and other options not easily found in a typical restaurant.
On Friday, she was waiting on the Health Department to give the final approval. She's hired waitstaff and cooks. She's in talks with an executive chef. Her menu is set. The upcoming week will be training so the menu items are cooked the way she envisions.
And next weekend, she's planning a private opening for those who have supported her. The following week, she'll be open to the public.
When it does open, it may not be the final product. She said she is keeping the hours somewhat limited, opening from 11 until 8 Wednesday through Sunday, to start and the menu could change.
"If it feels like it is worthwhile to be open later if it feels like people are rushing to get in here at 7:30 so they can eat before we close, then we'll reconsider our timeline. But right now, I don't want to commit to more than 60 hours a week because I have to be there. Until I know that I don't have to be there all the time, I only want to limit it to what I can handle," Peltier said.
She said the menu is crafted so that an entire family, even those who are not vegan, can enjoy something. She said typical items like macaroni and cheese and burgers are offered, but just done in a vegan way.
"I'm trying to create items on the menu that everybody in the family will find something to try, not just the one person who is vegan," Peltier said.
Her daughters Trenna and Lina Marcinczyk will be managing various parts of the restaurant. Peltier is adding a retail section so people can purchase items they may struggle to find in a typical grocery store.
The diner has been vacant for the last three years.
"In addition to the whole food line, I've been exploring extra virgin olive oils and vinegars. We're creating our own line of salad dressings, house-made salad dressings. It is going to be very non-traditional like an apple walnut dressing or a cayenne fig and I'm picking up some interesting ideas for a housemade dressing. We are also offering house-made soda," Peltier said.
"They are all natural, made from fermented fruit, they have no added sugar. They have probiotics, anti-oxidants, vitamin, and minerals, and they are healthy sodas. I think it is the first of its kind around."
Peltier's desire to open a restaurant has been years in the making. At age 16, she was working alone in a diner, cooking and serving customers. She hopped around to a couple places, went into fine dining, and bartending. She was in the restaurant business for 15 years and had considered opening her own restaurant.
But her career took her into social work and that followed with having two daughters. She decided to become a stay at home mom, doing bookkeeping and accounting from home for the last 20 years. Peltier likes to keep bust so on the side was also buying, renovating, and reselling properties.
"If the last couple of years, since my daughters have both grown up, I thought I really want to get into another project. I want to build some kind of a project that will give me a satisfactory income and something to do with my time. I like to be busy," Peltier said.
A friend of hers then posted on Facebook asking when somebody would open a vegan diner locally.
It struck her ... I'll do it, she said.
"This sounds like something the community really needs, that people are asking for, I think I could be successful doing this because I have a combination of all of these skills and this desire to do something like that," Peltier said.
She started looking for space. She looked at one place but the rent was too high for what she wanted to do so she switched to looking for real estate. She found the former Adriens that had been closed for the last three years.
"It was in need of a lot of work, which I have the skills to do. It was a really affordable price, which I could afford. And the location was good," Peltier said.
In April, she bought the diner. But the issues that needed to be addressed with the building were complicated -- which is likely why the building hadn't been sold for so long.
"I spent the last eight months working hard to make the project work. I had to figure out a way to stay within a certain budget constraint because if I spend a certain dollar value, then I was going to have to basically rebuild the entire place. It would have to be completely demolished and restructured. I didn't want to do that," Peltier said.
"I wanted to keep the original integrity of the boxcar diner, I wanted to keep it looking like a boxcar diner."
The biggest issue was handicapped accessibility. The building is small and it has limited land and it wasn't handicapped accessible. She doesn't own enough land to the north to put in a handicap ramp. The front vestibule is a foot too narrow for wheelchairs and the property sits right on the sidewalk with no room to widen that. And to put a ramp on the south side would require a 94-foot ramp with four zigzags leading into the restaurant.
To put in two handicapped accessible bathrooms would take up about a third of the restaurant space. In all, Peltier said it would cost her four times the amount she bought the diner for in order to make it happen.
She got some help and encouragement navigating the situation and ultimately got a waiver from the state Architectural Access Board to avoid making those changes.
"The people who had my back, encouraged me and supported me and got me through this whole thing, was Jesse Cook-Dubin, the president of Downtown Pittsfield Inc. He has advocated for me. He got the mayor involved. And my ward councilor, Tony Simonelli," Peltier said.
She said Cook-Dubin helped her in a number of ways. The mayor came to the property asking how to help. And Simonelli attended the various meetings she needed to have with building inspectors.
While the restaurant itself isn't handicapped accessible, Peltier still wants to accommodate people in wheelchairs. She had met with the city's Commission of Disabilities and pitched them the idea of a wheel-up window. Outside of the diner, she installed an intercom system from which people using mobile assistive equipment can place their order and staff will run it out to them.
"They get curbside delivery. The alternative plan is they can order online and can just pull up here and we'll run it out. The best I could do is curbside delivery for people in a wheelchair," Peltier said.
She said the idea was well received by the Commission on Disabilities, especially after she showed them the challenges she faces to make the small building handicapped accessible.