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A neighborly kind of place
At first glance, one might question the decision by islander Charlotte Shepard to open a restaurant in the middle of winter in downtown Winslow, during a recession and with no previous experience in the food service industry.
But the third-generation islander figured her knowledge of the community would be the most important “success” factor. Her pre-opening homework also was thorough and she hired good people in key positions – the chef, and managers of both the restaurant and bar.
So far, about seven months into the opening of 122 Winslow, the restaurant’s popularity indicates the eatery has made a good first impression.
“We started it from ground zero,” Shepard said, “but I pride myself as knowing what people on the island want: great food, good service and a comfortable atmosphere. We wanted to create a place where people enjoy separate experiences, whether it’s a family get-together or an evening out with drinks and dinner.”
The approach has worked so far, because the restaurant has three distinct dining rooms that help separate the experiences offered.
“It must be working because we’re getting a lot of parents and their children in here,” she said. “Plates are coming back clean and we’re getting a good approval rating.”
Above all, she considers 122 Winslow as a family restaurant. Her husband, Fred Jaberi, sons Paimon, 14, and Armanm 9, are involved one way or another in the everyday operations.
Shepard said her family’s nearly 100-year experience on the island was a driving force for her to share what she considers “my legacy” with others by opening a restaurant that is representative of island living.
Her grandparents, Dr. Frank and Charlotte Shepard, moved to the island in 1910, and her late father, Frank Jr., was involved in real estate on the island.
After Shepard and the building’s owner came to an agreement, it took 11 weeks of Fairbank Construction to remodel the previous space before the eatery opened in early December with a brand new kitchen.
“We’ve survived so far basically by word of mouth,” she said “We wanted to start slowly because we wanted a good first impression, and you can’t do that with a lot of volume.”
When a snowstorm hit the island, they figured they’d be lucky if “we had 20 to 30 that first day.” Instead, they served about 170 people.
Shepard considers herself a hands-on owner by being attentive to what occurs “out front” and being at the restaurant nearly every day.
“It’s my philosophy that there’s a way to fix people’s experience,” she said. “I get out there and talk to people about their meals and service. We’ve fixed a few things based on what customers had to say.”
While the bar is an obviously important part of the business, her emphasis, “is on the family of four. That’s our focus customer. With the economy being what it is, we want them all to have a good meal for 40 or 50 bucks. That’s our goal.”