The Byrd is back

June 17, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Dick Hart lingered over his breakfast Monday morning in the dining room of the Red Byrd Restaurant, where he was eating for the first time since it closed last November and changed ownership.

"I've been coming here about 25 years," said the Shepherdstown, W.Va., retiree. "When the Red Byrd closed, I couldn't find another place to suit me."

Hart was one among many longtime customers, veteran servers and cooks, and even a former owner, who came out on opening day.


"It feels great," said Mary Jane Shaefer who owned the restaurant with her late husband, Zane, from 1972 to 1989.

After a Sunday afternoon open house/chicken barbecue, the restaurant on Md. 34 is now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner as before. The menus have changed a little but the old favorites are still being prepared.

"There is red velvet cake, crab soup, and of course strawberry pie," said Beth Wyand, a server with 24 years under her apron at the Red Byrd.

In addition to Wyand, who hasn't worked anywhere since November, several other employees are back.

Kay Dick is back in the kitchen where she has spent 30 years.

"I literally ran out of my house this morning to get here," said veteran server Frances Clipp.

New owner Fred George of Lovettsville, Va., showed up for lunch Monday wearing a gray shirt emblazoned with a cardinal, like those of the staff. He squeezed in at the counter and asked the hostess what's good here.

A full-time employee of CSX Railroad, George and two partners paid $305,000 at auction in February for the popular eatery and the adjacent banquet building, motel and on-site residence. His partners are Anne DeCourcy and Kenneth Loewinger, both of Lovettsville, Va.

George said he knew the Red Byrd was more than just a restaurant on the night of the auction, which looked more like a reunion than a sale. Employees and customers showed up for the event.

"There were a few surprises" during the remodeling of the restaurant, George said. But George, who said he is experienced in owning restaurants in Virginia, said he wasn't discouraged.

After the sale in February, George described his business style as turnkey, meaning he owns the building and equipment.

Jamie and Becki Burtner, Christina Albaugh and Bevan Moats are the new owners of the Red Byrd Restaurant.

"We're really pleased with how things are going," said Jamie Burtner.

George said in February a convenience store might open at the site and said he probably would rent out the house.

"The house is already rented," George said Monday. "And all that is needed to open a convenience store in the old banquet building is someone interested in leasing it."

The future of the motel was a little vague but George said there was a possibility of some shops opening there. But if someone wants to lease it as a motel, that could be in the cards, he said.

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