Terry O’Brien. Courtesy photo.
Terry O’Brien’s parents and two of their friends bought what has since become the iconic Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub in Glen when she was 18. She was the only one who had actually worked in a restaurant. Her father, Dewey Mark, worked in publishing, her mom, Jean Melczarek, was an art teacher, and their friends, Al and Lois Nelson, worked in construction and real estate respectively.
The couples cooked up the idea of buying a restaurant together while on vacation and found The Red Parka Pub, which had been operating for four years, was for sale. “When I first saw it, I thought they lost their minds. It needed a lot of love,” O’Brien says.
O’Brien, who now co-owns the restaurant with her 88-year-old mother (who is essentially retired) laughs recalling how serving 50 dinners was a big night. Prior to COVID-19, a busy night could mean 700 dinners.
This year looked like it would be a good one. A new assistant manager meant O’Brien could take a ski vacation in Idaho. But the day before she returned from vacation, Gov. Chris Sununu shut restaurants down. “My first order was to gather all the staff in for a meeting and tell them to go collect unemployment,” O’Brien says. “It was heart wrenching.”
O’Brien donated the food in stock. And, known for cutting their own steaks, they took orders and sold them curbside.
When the restaurant reopened, reduced seating and an inability to hire entertainment (as the dance floor had to be used to space out tables) resulted in a huge financial hit that PPP funds and Main Street funds have helped to assuage without solving her essential problem.
“My fears are we are going into a slow season,” O’Brien says. “I don’t know what will happen.”
O’Brien is considering offering family sized meals to go to help during the slower season. She is also meeting with other area restaurant owners to commiserate and share ideas.