Pivoting and Persevering: February 2022

Pickled Owl Approaching Seven Years in Business
by Denise Sullivan

HURLEYVILLE, February 2022 — It’s no secret that starting a restaurant and keeping the doors open is fraught with complications.
Reaching the five-year anniversary is a very big deal in the food service business, regardless of where you are located. For Evan and Brynn Allees at the Pickled Owl on Main Street in Hurleyville, their big milestone was approaching in August of 2020 when the disruption of the pandemic began in March. They were close to paying off loans, and their gastro pub-style eatery had steady customers, good staff and delicious food.
Then the world around them changed.
Spring of 2020 brought lockdowns that forced many venues to close up shop for good, but the Pickled Owl kept flying, retaining core staff members and pivoting in the kitchen. They served take-out with family sized specials, and called customers to stay connected and to survey them for feedback.
By the time August 2020 finally arrived, they were serving food under tents beside their back deck, and following the ever-changing NY state regulations. To add to the chaos of that milestone summer, the Allees family of six sold their house and moved into a large apartment above the restaurant, a move they had planned pre-pandemic and made easier while business was slow.
Busy summers generally outpace slower winters in our local restaurants.
“You expect to make more money in the summer to get through the winter months,” Mr. Allees, who is also the head chef, said.
Being a restaurant owner is a demanding job, but also working as the head chef allows very little time off. Acquiring and keeping a second chef has been a challenge for them – a large venue like the casino can offer higher pay plus benefits. Small businesses are hard pressed to compete with that, so a number of promising chefs have moved on to more lucrative kitchens. Mr. Allees stays in touch with other local food purveyors, and says they are all in the same boat.
In their first three years of existence, the Pickled Owl was open for business while it seemed like all of Hurleyville was under construction – a traffic light was installed just outside their doors and new Main Street sidewalks were built, causing lots of dust and mayhem. The Rail Trail and municipal parking lot next door were paved, and the Performing Arts Centre, playground, and basketball courts had been erected nearby.
Location is key for any enterprise, so Evan and Brynn are grateful to have established their business on the ground floor level of the hamlet revitalization. They have enjoyed watching the growth of Hurleyville since they opened. Ms. Allees, now a middle-school teacher who grew up in Hurleyville, says it has been amazing to see the positive changes in town.

Summer of 2021 provided a bit of a rebound for the eatery, a much better season than their milestone summer of the year before. Plus, more new businesses have opened in town since then.
Right now, in the slower winter season, customers at the Owl run the gamut from loyals who desire curbside takeout, to comfortable indoor diners who are happy to be back. Whatever the future brings for the Allees clan and the Pickled Owl, they will undoubtedly pivot and persevere like they always have.