It’s early November and our long-term visitors are returning. This is the time of the year we look forward to with great excitement and expectation. The annual fall greeting is simple with each side inquiring, how was your summer?
In past years my responses have been simple: no major storms-that’s always good; business was better-that’s great; and so the standard questions and answers would go. Often friends and guests, those we’ve known for sometimes decades, would ask more personal questions about our vacations and especially September in Vermont, our annual, treasured family gathering. This year’s response is very different.
On August 16, 2015 my wonderful son Will Ridgway died. For those of you who have known the restaurant and, therefore, our family, we have all suffered a great loss. I’m choosing to share this loss with you in writing as I’m still finding it too difficult to put into spoken words when presented with that well-meaning question, how was your summer? But for all of you, my extended family, it’s important to me that you know.
The Ridgway family is a very special one. It extends well beyond the immediate circle. We have been loved, we’ve been held and we’ve been consoled in all manners. Each of us is going through the grieving process in our own way.
Wynne and I have spent the past two weeks in the garden at the restaurant. Working with our hands has been so very special. I remember introducing Will to Longwood Gardens, a favored family spot since my own childhood, some years ago and his true excitement at the beauty of it all.
Chef Alec and I have spent many hours finalizing some new menu items and working on small details on all of the others. My long-ago partner and Will’s godfather Beirne Brown used to preach that excellence is in the details. Anyone who knew Will knew how strongly he felt about quality and excellence.
One of my true loves has always been the bakery. Maryann and her staff have put up with my need to constantly strive for bakery perfection. I’ve just recently brought back an almond cake and flourless chocolate torte we did years ago, that some of you may find reminiscent of an old Truffles dessert. It should be available for tasting most days!
Yes, the day-to-day business is going forward, as many of you who know me well would expect. The grief comes in waves and can be quite unsettling at times. The care from all of those who have written or simply offered a warm smile, comment and hug has meant so much to all of us.
My dear partner Sukie has been so wonderful; she is such a rock. I’ve never needed her more than now, and she has outperformed as usual.
Sukie and I have chosen to offer our young manager David Verbruggen greater responsibility. His new title is Managing Partner of Ridgway Bar & Grill and Tony’s Off Third. We are thankful to David, and of course to our entire team, for their effort and commitment to making our restaurant the welcoming place that it is.
My wife, Wynne, continues to be my strength and solace. My daughter, Caroline, has lost her best friend. They had a very exceptional brother-sister friendship. Wynne and I have both welcomed more frequent and closer contact with Sarah, Will’s mother, as we all recognize the importance of coming together as a unified family. Allison and Kelly, Wynne’s daughters and Will’s stepsisters, have been present with their love and humor and support. We, as a close family, are all moving forward, remembering Will each day, striving to reach out to all who have given us so much love.
Tony’s Off Third celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. This fall marks the beginning of year 45 in the restaurant business, with many more to follow. I hope to see all of as you return to our little bit of paradise. I’m in the restaurant as much as ever. It is good therapy for me.
If you see me and I look a little distant, please know it’s only as my memories and emotions are a bit wandering these days, and that your presence as friends and patrons is so appreciated by all of us. The garden is ready to welcome you. The menu is ready to welcome you. Sukie and David and the entire Ridgway Bar & Grill staff are ready to welcome you, and I am ready to welcome you.