A rural awakening in Jeff
Walking into Tavern On Main Restaurant in Jeffersonville, NY, with its casual rustic decor and droves of diners that keep coming back, you would never guess that the owners, Lauren Seikaly and Michael Huber, had no experience in the restaurant business. “We have no food background, other than we enjoy eating,” says Lauren. The couple live in Manhattan with their two daughters, Clio, 12 and Willa, 9, and until recently worked in high-pressure jobs, Lauren as an actor and producer and Michael as an investor. After falling in love with country living 18 years ago, the couple bought a house in Jeffersonville, turning it into a weekend retreat.
Several years ago, Lauren was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the family resolved to take some time off and moved to Spain for six months. Upon their return to the U.S., The couple decided to open a business in Jeffersonville.
They purchased the Jay Epstein law office building on Main Street, planning to turn it into a bakery. Unfortunately the building was in such bad condition it had to be demolished. The next step was to purchase Mullally’s Pub, also on Main Street, originally the historic Hotel Jefferson. After a major remodeling, the restaurant Tavern on Main opened in November of last year.
Although most of the interior of this historic building was remodeled, they decided to keep the original facade intact.
“Many of the furnishings and accessories here have a local history,” says Lauren. “For example, the well-worn pine tables were constructed of wood salvaged from the old Epstein building; several of the antique accessories you see in the dining room were found while cleaning out the Epstein premises.” They also scoured local antique shops, yard sales and “found treasures” on the side of the road, collecting furnishings that would create a homey mood.
The bar’s surface was constructed of antique wood planks found in Mullally’s attic. “We liked the idea of reusing items that came from the original building,” says Lauren. Besides restoring some of the building’s history, the mismatched decor brings a rustic charm that creates a country-living informality.
Lauren and Michael see Tavern on Main as a place where the community can come together. They created a menu with Chef John to include a mix of local favorites like corn chowder soup, a tavern burger and fried chicken, along with a more creative fare that includes fish tacos and an assortment of salads and vegetarian options, plus an array of mouth-watering desserts
Then to complement the Tavern, they expanded into the backyard overlooking the creek, and constructed the Winkelried Biergarten, (Winkelried is the original name of Jeffersonville), an open-air restaurant complete with an outdoor grill, picnic tables, lawn games, fire pit and live entertainment. Winkelried is also available for private parties. During the renovation they refurbished the ice-cream stand attached to the Tavern, now called Sprinkles, serving farm-fresh ice cream.
Their new wine and spirits store, 52 & Vine, moved from a liquor store attached to the tavern into a newly renovated building next door. Managed by wine expert Tom Wasserman, the shop has a large inventory of wines, spirits and gift accessories. The old liquor-store space has been turned into a dining room for private parties and family get-togethers.
Next on the agenda is to go back to the site of the “Epstein Building.” The couple has plans to build a new 8,000-square-foot building that will feature a bakery cafe complete with patio dining and apartments upstairs. “Everyone loves a bakery; just imagine the scent of bread baking and fresh coffee in the morning,” says Lauren. “Besides the bakery and cafe area, we also plan to include a room with a fireplace, books and comfortable seating, a quiet place, where people can hang out, read, enjoy a beverage and relax.” Completion date will be sometime next spring.
“Our mission was to create a social hub in the village with several types of eateries where folks from all over can meet and have a good time,” says Lauren.
At this point it seems safe to say: mission accomplished.