Pin It

Sean & Nora's Says Adios 

Side Dishes: Julio's Cantina will stay open

After facing a "perfect storm of issues," John Mayfield, owner of 5-year-old Sean & Nora's in Barre, has decided to close the restaurant where he offered up "food from America's neighborhoods." "Sean & Nora's has never been a hugely successful business venture," he admits. "But it was always a labor of love." Locals considered the eatery, named for Mayfield's grandparents, a splurge for special occasions.

For Mayfield and his family, Sean & Nora's was more than just a source of income. "My daughter was 2 years old when we opened the restaurant," he says. "Now I have to explain to her why it isn't there anymore. Other than the loss of a family member," Mayfield goes on, "[deciding to close] was the toughest thing I've ever had to do."

It's not hard to see whence the "perfect storm" arose. The rising costs of food and fuel crunched the restaurant's profit margin and made customers more reluctant to spend their hard-earned dollars. Meanwhile, Mayfield faced competition from a slew of "new and revitalized eateries," such as the L.A.C.E. Café, Pit Stop Diner, Stonecutters Brew House and El Sol Mexican Grill, all of which opened in Barre over the past 18 months. Though he admires the entrepreneurial energies at work in his town, Mayfield says, "The number of customers was shrinking, and the pie just got cut into smaller and smaller pieces."

But the restaurateur believes he might have survived tough times had it not been for an unfounded rumor that began circulating last year and "really took root in November." Word on the street was that the restaurant was going out of business - the proverbial self-fulfilling prophecy. "It affected the booking of parties, the ability to hire key staff and the sale of gift cards," Mayfield laments. All three were crucial to getting through winter's slow period. "As long as we came close to breaking even, we were ready to keep going," Mayfield explains, but "when [these factors] all came together, we couldn't."

Softening the blow a bit is the growth of the entrepreneur's catering business, which he will continue to operate, and the success of his Montpelier-area Mexican eatery Julio's Cantina. "Julio's will go on; there will be no changes," Mayfield avers. "It seems to have the price point and the atmosphere that people are looking for during difficult times. You can go to Julio's for dinner and a drink and be out of there for less than $25 or $30 per couple."

As we head deeper into recession, Mayfield says, he hopes locals will take two lessons to heart. One is that "Vermont is small, and rumors do damage to businesses; they really do have an impact." The other: "We all need to support our locally owned and operated business. Non-local businesses might hire local people, which is a good thing, but the profits leave Vermont. We need to support each other and keep things going."

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It

More by Suzanne Podhaizer

About The Author

Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the former Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a goose,... more


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

foodie poll

How do you feel about eating GMO foods?

  • I don't understand what the fuss is about. I eat them and I'm fine.
  • As long as they're FDA-approved, I don't mind consuming them.
  • GMOs are in most staple foods, so I'm resigned to eating them.
  • I wish they were labeled so I could make informed choices about when to eat them.
  • I'm concerned about potential long-term health effects of consuming GMOs, which haven't yet been studied.

View Results

Latest in Food News

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2016 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So Champlain St Ste 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation