NORTH HERO – A lakefront inn and restaurant that’s been around for seven decades has just seen a major makeover of its dining room, with other big plans in the works for 2022.
What is the place?
Established in 1951 by Harvey and Dolly Dodds, Shore Acres inn and restaurant occupies 1,800 feet of lake frontage on 46 acres along Lake Champlain in North Hero. The inn has 24 rooms, 20 of which face the lake. The dining room with seating for 82 customers has similarly striking views.
The menu has historically been heavy on comfort foods and the dining room reflected that coziness. A stuffed bear greeted customers. Duck-filled scenes adorned the knotty-pine walls. Diners ate their meals on checkered tablecloths.
Many of those old touches are gone, updated by the new owners who came to Shore Acres early this year.
What’s the story behind it?
Neil and Kelly Gillespie visited Shore Acres regularly for the past decade from their home in Virginia. On a visit last August, Kelly mentioned to her husband that the business owned by Susan and Mike Tranby was for sale.
In mid-January, the Gillespies bought Shore Acres. Neil Gillespie, a retired senior partner for a consulting firm in the aerospace/defense industry in McLean, Virginia, said they paid what the Tranbys were asking — $2.95 million.
“We’re going to try to keep the DNA the same,” Neil Gillespie said of the venerable business. He and his wife, who live in Virginia and South Hero, are also overseeing significant changes to the property.
Gillespie hired Jason Hanny, a veteran of the restaurant scene in Virginia, to serve as general manager at Shore Acres. Gillespie said Hanny told him, ‘We’ve got to redo the restaurant, especially if you want to attract younger people.’”
The bear and ducks are gone. So is the knotty pine. A fireplace that didn’t work has been removed. The dining-room walls now feature clean, white vertical pine sheets and cool-blue bricks, which with the white tablecloths give the room a subtle nautical feel. Chairs have been upgraded; a wine rack was installed.
“In here,” Hanny said Monday inside the dining room, “it was all green carpeting, and quite frankly it was all beat up.” The carpet has been replaced by restaurant-grade, wood-like laminate flooring.
Similarly, the menu has been overhauled. Chef Dan Rainville, with Shore Acres for 27 years, and sous chef Jeanette Stevens are now overseeing a menu that deemphasizes heavier offerings such as turkey and brisket in favor of more fish dishes, sauces and seasonings.
“It’s definitely more progressive,” according to Henny.
He said business has been good as Shore Acres moves toward an upscale-casual tone. “It’s a vibe we’re trying to create,” Hanny said, “and it’s working.”
The biggest change will happen next year. The Gillespies are planning a lakeside bar, Bravo Zulu, which in naval speak represents the phrase “well done” (Neil Gillespie is a U.S. Naval Academy alumnus and Navy veteran).
Gillespie said some of his friends thought he was crazy for buying a restaurant and inn during the COVID-19 pandemic. He sees the potential for a sprawling lakeside property in Vermont’s northern reaches.
“I didn’t think for a second I should do anything else,” Gillespie said. “My business instincts have never let me down.”
Hours and location
Shore Acres, 237 Shore Acres Drive (just off U.S. 2), North Hero. Restaurant open 5-8 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday and Thursday, 5-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Bravo Zulu lakeside bar to be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. weekends as soon as spring 2022. (802) 372-8722, www.shoreacres.com
Contact Brent Hallenbeck at email@example.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.