Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: The Village Trestle has that hometown feelBy MIKE COTE
September 16. 2017 10:43PM
GOFFSTOWN -- HITTING THE FIVE-YEAR MARK operating a restaurant is a noteworthy achievement in an industry where many don't survive the first year. For Village Trestle owners Brenda Cadieux and Amberly Gibbs, the journey tested them in ways they never could have imagined when the original owners convinced the long-time bartenders to buy the business.
Cadieux and Gibbs knew they would be giving up regular shifts for the endless hours it takes to run a restaurant. But they weren't prepared for the hardship they faced barely three months in when Cadieux became ill and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, beginning a medical battle that continues to this day.
"To go where we came from to where we are now, and if you look at what we went through to get here, it's a good story," Gibbs said last week as she and Cadieux talked about their business at 25 Main St. "She was in the hospital, and I could have just folded up my hands ... But I never thought that."
Gibbs, who has two young children, had a family and a lot of other people to think about.
"We have employees. We have bills to pay. We have loans to pay so we're all going to do what we need to do to get through this," Gibbs recalled. "We didn't know if she was going to be in the hospital for a week, three weeks, a month.
Then Cadieux chimed in: "First, we didn't know if I was going to be alive."
On Saturday, Gibbs, Cadieux, their employees and their customers will be celebrating the restaurant's fifth anniversary and that Cadieux can be there to enjoy it. The restaurant has scheduled various promotions during the day and entertainment at night.
Cadieux, 59, fought off the lymphoma after chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant, but she was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016, a month after being declared cancer-free for three years.
"My body has not recovered. I'm alive and I'm thankful for that, but it's not the same. I can't bartend anymore," Cadieux said.
But she's gotten use to barreling through to keep working.
"While I was going through chemo I worked bartending every other week. I'd have chemo, and the next week I'd work, because I had no money. I had to do something," said Cadieux, who did not have health insurance.
T-shirts for sale at the bar promote the most recent "Pay it Forward, Pay it Back" motorcycle run fundraiser the Village Trestle holds every year. The proceeds go to the oncology department of Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center in Lebanon, which qualified Cadieux for charitable aid and wiped the slate clean for medical bills she said topped $2 million.
While it would take many bike runs to repay for all the medical care Cadieux received, it represents the kind of community meeting spot the restaurant aims to be. It's a place where locals can listen to live music on the weekends - including a Sunday afternoon blues jam that has been running for more than a dozen years - or participate in cribbage, poker and other leagues during the week that help keep the bar busy when there's not live music to draw a crowd.
Gibbs, 47, oversees the kitchen, which prepares dinner entrees along with traditional tavern food.
"It's not just wings and burgers and stuff like that," she said. "We do have some upscale items ... All our soups are made from scratch. We don't use any frozen product or anything pre-made. We don't have a frozen case of anything that we just warm up."
Gibbs and Cadieux consider themselves best friends as well as business partners. They finish each other's sentences and know how to make each other laugh. You need that in your arsenal when you never know what will hit you next, like the day Cadieux arrived at the restaurant to find that a pipe had burst and caused massive flooding, shutting the restaurant down for a week.
The duo attacked the problem the same way they did when they needed to give the restaurant a major renovation after buying it: by enlisting people in the community to help out. And the community came through a second time.
"Everybody pitched in," Gibbs said. "We had to have a general contractor for insurance reasons... We had to replace all the flooring."
Gibbs and Cadieux purchased the restaurant entirely with private financing, including loans from friends.
"The previous owner financed whatever we couldn't come up with. They wanted to sell because they were moving on to another venture," Cadieux said.
While they were paying off the loans, neither partner drew a salary. After they paid off the last of them last year, they treated themselves to company cars.
"That's was our gift," Gibbs said. "We went right from the accounting office to AutoFair."
They've been successful enough to draw paychecks now and have grown the business over the years, employing 16 people. But they're cautious with the money. What if the ice machine breaks? That's another five grand, Cadieux said.
On Saturday, Village Trestle patrons will get to see Gibbs sing with the Bob Pratte Band, a nod to her side career before she became a business owner.
"We were bartenders and I was singing in the band, and now I'm in the kitchen," Gibbs said. "Like Cinderella - with no money!"
At this, she and Cadieux, burst out laughing - like best friends who have been through a lot together tend to do.
Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.