Business

Kingstonite serves up good eats at The Grub Hut

The Grub Hut, owned by Sean Pickard, opened recently in Kingston. The restaurant features gourmet burgers, shakes and malts and other custom fare.  - Brad Camp/Staff photo
The Grub Hut, owned by Sean Pickard, opened recently in Kingston. The restaurant features gourmet burgers, shakes and malts and other custom fare.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

KINGSTON — The Grub Hut, on S.R.104 across from the Blue Water Inn, is Kingston’s newest restaurant, but owner Sean Pickard is a long-time Kingstonite and past owner of the Coastal Café.

Opening a new restaurant in the midst of the current economic turmoil is a gutsy move, but Pickard is confident the timing and menu are right. It is the friendships he’s developed during 20 years in the restaurant business that have made it possible.

“A friend who reps for Sysco, a restaurant supplier, had driven by the empty location and mentioned it was a great spot for a small restaurant,” he says.

After checking it out, Pickard thought so too. He put together a business plan with the help of Jason West, another friend who began the Westside Pizza chain and now works as a restaurant consultant. Kingston, they decided, was ready for a family-friendly restaurant with a casual menu “somewhere between McDonald’s and Red Robin.”

Two weeks after signing a five-year lease, though, Pickard discovered that Chase Manhattan had suspended his line of credit, along with those of a million other customers, to help finance their purchase of WaMu.

“Even though my wife and I freaked out when we first got the news, we quickly developed a new business plan over the weekend and went to American Marine Bank in Kingston,” he explains. “They were great and worked with us, but we ended up with $10,000 less of start-up capital than we’d originally had.” Fortunately one friend with expertise in commercial kitchens helped to find equipment within the revised budget. Other friends helped by trading out work or reducing their rates. As a result, he says, you can find their names on the menu with items such as “Tim’s Hawaiian Delight,” the “GoJo Burger” and the “Uncle MacGyver Burger.”

Even with the help, he says, he and his wife have “bled, sweated and teared” to get the doors open.

“At several times we wondered if we would ever get the doors open,” he says. But open they did, on Jan. 22, and during the next two weeks, business boomed: “We could hardly keep up.”

After the rush of the first couple of weeks of operation, business has settled into a pattern he believes will be sustainable.

“We’re committed to having a fun, laid-back atmosphere where you can bring the family on the spur of the moment, and our customers are responding to that commitment.”

The food is made from fresh ingredients, he adds, and although it is “a burger place,” the menu has a wide selection that even includes dishes for vegetarians. The Grub Hut is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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