Monday, July 23, 2012

Your Bucks at Work

Thanks to the enthusiasm and support you've demonstrated by dining with us, more than $1,000,000 has passed through our doors and right back into the hands of our hard working neighbors since we opened in 2008. Overall, in a recession, diners at Claire’s have been a significant driver of economic activity, including the new jobs at the restaurant and direct payments for purchases to our farmers and farm related businesses. Claire’s spends 70 cents of every food dollar within 15 miles. Now, the restaurant is launching a challenge to bring the total purchases from farms within 15 miles to $500,000 by the end of 2012.

You could say, the buck doesn't stop here - it goes right back into the local economy.  And when you enjoy a good meal with good people at Claire’s, you can also be confident that the money you spend with us provides income to friends and neighbors.

Overall, jobs and area farms are on top.  While restaurants typically devote the lion’s share of their budget to these areas, our mission has been to invest these dollars in the Hardwick area economy from the very beginning.

23 new jobs in Hardwick, including management, servers, bussers, and in the kitchen – providing a much needed source of income and economic activity since the economy began to falter in 2007.

$625,000 in total wages paid directly to staff who live within 15 miles of the restaurant.

Those jobs have included two full-time positions and from 15-21 flextime and part-time positions, depending on the season.

The flexible staffing arrangements enable parents to share child raising responsibilities while earning a living, allow some staff to supplement income from farming or other businesses, and provide much needed income and new training for students completing their education.

The impact on the local economy of income directly to staff is even greater than this number indicates, as our wages do not include tips that servers receive from guests.  Nor are we accounting for money we spend on professional services like accounting, insurance, or laundry, which are also spent in Hardwick.

Steven has spent $433,000 in food purchased for the kitchen at farms and farming businesses within 15 miles of the restaurant.

  We currently spend 70 cents of every food dollar within this same region; our share of expenditures locally has fluctuated between 65 and 70 cents per dollar since opening.

  Top suppliers include Hazendale Farm, Harvest Hill Farm, Pete’s Greens, beef and pork from Snug Valley Farm (above right), Riverside Farm (above center-right, with Lindsey Scott, who now has Provender Farm), Applecheek Farm, and Sunshine Acres.

  At the same time, Steven eagerly sources food from a number of small and newer operations, including Provender Farm, Eastview Farm, Mystic Morning, and Peace of Earth Farm.

  Bread comes from three local bakers – Patchwork Farm in East Hardwick (above left), Bohemian Bakery in Calais, and Elmore Mountain Bread.  Artisan cheese makers include Bonnieview Farm (above center left).

  These local numbers do not reflect purchases of apples, cooking wine, butter, and sunflower oil from elsewhere in Vermont, nor the restaurant’s commitment to sustainable harvested seafood caught and processed along the New England Coast.

While many restaurants talk about local, Steven has always seen his responsibilities as chef owner to deliver.   This is a commitment we owe to the community that supported us from the beginning.  And when we buy from a bit farther afield, we want to trust that those we buy from support their own communities. Even focusing on the New England coast, for example, means we have to avoid seafood that is caught there but sent overseas to be processed.

This has meant a different approach to dining and cooking for the restaurant.  Seasonal ingredients require weekly and sometimes daily changes to the menu, and the almost exclusive reliance on raw ingredients fresh out of the ground or root cellar changes the way a kitchen operates.  We’ve got to clean and cut everything – nothing comes out of a can and the only thing not cooked here is the bread!  For our guests, it means growing accustomed to eating what each week brings to the table, with the variety of sizes that come from different growers and livestock, and anticipating those changes.  Steven has also paid careful attention to training his staff and sharing an appreciation for the food that has been grown around them their entire lives.

These purchases do not include area beer and spirits that are the focus of the restaurant’s bar.  We believe that spirits, beer, and wine start with farmers as well, and so we put our dollars into the hands of local producers, which is Veronica’s commitment as bar manager, working with a team of dedicated and crafty bartenders.

Also this year, our innovative Community Supported Restaurant (CSR) program drew to a close, with the restaurant completing "payments" to half of those who provided the original startup funding through the redemption of pre-purchased meal coupons.  Some CSR holders retain a dollar value on their coupons, and the restaurant has extended the period during which they can redeem them.  We so much appreciate all the support we have received since the beginning, and the idea of the CSR has spread far and wide.  We wanted to make sure everyone had the opportunity to get their dollars’ worth.  We are also developing a new pre-purchase program to launch soon.

Our $500K Challenge

We anticipate that purchases from local farms will pass half a million dollars by the end of 2012, given your visits to our dining room in the past few years.  So we invite everyone to make one big push to achieve that milestone, and we want to reward you for your commitment to our neighbors.  As the restaurant grows closer to the goal, we will announce a nightly countdown.   Every diner who leaves their name on the night when purchases from area farms pass $500k will be entered into a drawing to receive a free meal for 4 on New Years Eve.  Claire’s will also donate a portion of our receipts on that night to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry.

Every meal starts with our farmers, and we’ve wanted nothing more than that each of us in and around Hardwick has the opportunity to celebrate the good food that comes from our soil.  We want to be able to really measure the impact on our local economy of everyone who enjoys eating at Claire’s. We are excited about being on the threshold of a half million dollars in purchases for our kitchen from our neighbors, and we know you'll make that goal a reality.

At the Bar: Remember our Sunday and Monday drink specials. Sunday, July 29th we offer a $2.50 pint of Rock Art, a $4 glass of Boyden Valley Seyval Blanc or Big Barn Red. Our Honeycomb, with Smugglers' Notch Vodka, Caledonia Spirits Honey- Black Currant wine and lemon, is offered for $5.

Around the Galaxy: Earth pond building expert Tim Matson will be at The Galaxy on Tuesday, July 31st, to talk about the new updated edition of his classic guide, Earth Ponds: The Country Pond Maker's Guide to Building, Maintenance, and Restoration. Bring questions about your own pond or plans straight to the source!

Music Notes: Last October join us Thursday, July 26 at 7:30.  A truly unique listening experience, this acoustic singer/songwriter duo create a musical journey that will deeply tug at your heart strings.  Honing their crafts from different sides of the country, Erica Stroem and James Kinne came together through their sheer love and respect for music.  With powerful harmonies, rich song writing, and passionate storytelling, Last October has found a distinctive way to interpret their rapidly evolving style.

Local Events: Greensboro Arts Alliance Residency presents The Sound of Music July 25-28 behind the Lakeview Inn in Greensboro.  Performances begin at 7:30.  Tickets are $30 adults, $20 seniors, $18 children, students and veterans, and are available at Greensboro Garage in Greensboro, Connie's Kitchen, Hazendale Farm, and Willey's Store. Call 533-7487 for more information.

Reminders: We are now open seven days a week in summer! 

We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. We appreciate it when you use cash or a check - credit card companies charge us a fee that really adds up. Thanks to many of you we have been able to significantly reduce those fees.

Click on the image above to get a closer look!

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