Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gideon’s, RIP?

I just learned today that Gideon’s is in dire straights. According to its phone message, the restaurant was closed last weekend, but hopes to reopen on Wednesday January 24th. Apparently EGL (formerly Gideon’s Nightery), which was being spun off from Gideon’s and lately under the management of Vaal London-Kane, is in similar straights.

Well, this is horrible news. The first dinner my wife and I had in North Adams, when she was interviewing for her job as Web Communications Director, was at Gideon’s. The fact that we could get a meal as good as at any foodie restaurant in Boston was a significant factor (OK, a not insignificant factor, at any rate) in making us comfortable about moving out here; the relative ease of getting a reservation, and prices about 30% lower than in the city, was icing on the cake. And apart from our own comfort, the prosperous-seeming restaurant crowd also made us a little more comfortable about North Adams’ economic trend being up now, rather than down as in previous decades. The fact that Bill Gideon’s resume (among others) showed that he could make it anywhere, but he chose to come here, was also a good sign.

Gideon’s was always busy when I was there, but perhaps that was only on Saturday nights. Busy Saturdays are necessary, but not sufficient, for success in the business, so I guess I was “part of the problem” despite eating there every month or two. EGL has been less crowded; it was a great bargain for lunch or a light dinner; my wife gave them a fair amount of lunch business and raved about the food; its chef, Joe Mezza (spelling?) had been sous-chef at Mistral in Boston, a widely acclaimed French restaurant which we had never gotten to, mostly as they were on the high end of our price range.

There is still, of course, Gramercy Bistro, which is close to and similar to Gideon’s. And I understand that Milan at 55 Main is quite good; I have not eaten there. (Although my Italian grandmother has now been dead for several years, I still feel a bit guilty about getting Italian food anywhere else.) But between Jae’s closing up its restaurant in North Adams, and now this, I am not happy about recent trends. (I did finally get to Coyote Flaco on the far side of Williamstown last weekend; it’s unusually good Mexican for New England, and very reasonably priced, but not so convenient from Adams.)

So what to do? I will try to follow the situation with Gideon’s and EGL, and eat there on a weeknight if I get another chance.

Does anyone have any details about what happened? At one level, I’m sure it’s a problem of not making enough money, but how did the problem go down, and what does that mean for the prospects of reopening?

UPDATE: Having heard from a couple of reasonably well-connected (but not directly involved) sources, I believe that Gideon's had plenty of business but was mismanaged to the point its bank felt the need to shut it down. EGL, while apparently less of a going concern, may be slightly more likely to make a comeback. I never did "Drinking Liberally" which has been hosted there, mostly because I'm not a liberal (except in the classical sense), but I see such events as important to the success (cultural and otherwise) of North Adams' continued revival. An arts community needs reasonably priced places for refreshments and entertainment that can attract pinkos, artists, students, dilettantes and groupies, and gays and lesbians, and North Adams doesn't have a surfeit of them.

UPDATE 2: Gideon's phone message no longer says they're hoping to reopen tonight (Wednesday). Also, EGL does not look likely to reopen as such, at least any time soon, although Vaal, its manager, would appear (unlike Gideon, can't say more) to remain viable in the local business community. She just took over the now-shuttered restaurant a couple months ago. EGL was to now, I believe still "owned" by Bill Gideon, not Vaal (that is, to the extent it was not owned by the bank which lent Gideon considerable sums).


Anonymous said...

what about middle age mom's who refuse to believe they are no longer hip?

Greg said...

David - In reply to your comment on my blog, I am aware of the situation. It is sad, but the conventional wisdom is that Gideon overextended himself by opening the Nightery/EGL. Most of us in the local industry thought he was nuts to assume that North Adams was ready for a hip evening performance space and it seems we were correct. (...Maybe in a few years, but not quite yet.)

According to people who reportedly know about such things, Gideon will require a new chunk of operating capital before anything happens in his main restaurant again. He pretty much confirmed that in the story that ran in The Transcript a couple days back.

I wish him well. He is a damn good cook. Northern Berkshire County most certainly can support a restaurant such as Gideons. The closure of the flagship was not because of an empty dining room. He was packed almost every weekend night.

Hopefully he'll hire a sharp bookkeeper to keep things from getting out of hand again.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DWPittelli said...

I have removed two anonymous comments. One was pure spam (I wonder if the spambots are learning to crack the letter-reading test?) and the other was a scurrilous charge.

I understand I am not liable for others' comments, but the charge was both serious enough to be libelous, and vague enough to be impossible to defend oneself against, and thus I do not intend to host it.

Anonymous said...

censorship is removing posts you deem scurrilous. let the words speak for themselves, coward.

DWPittelli said...

When the government keeps someone from saying something, that is called "censorship." When a newspaper editor or blogger keeps something off of his own newspaper or blog, that is called "editorial control."

I am here under my own name. You are anonymous, coward.