NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- A local couple is reopening a familiar fish fry restaurant that generations of local residents have enjoyed in the past.
TJ Greene and his wife, Ann, plan to open TJ's Fish Fry at the corner of Main and Depot streets. The site has previously been the home of Vern's Fish Fry, and before that, Paul's Fish Fry.
"I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel, I'm just trying to pick up where someone else left off," Greene said. "I've poured my whole heart and soul into this; so has my wife. I want to do it right. Big, big shoes to fill."
The restaurant has been closed for about six years, and was gutted when Vern's closed up, Greene said. The new eatery will have all new equipment, he said. "We're starting from ground zero. Totally ground zero," he said.
The spot has been known to generations of Vermonters, but has been vacant for years. Greene said he was waiting for someone to reopen it. When nobody stepped forward, he decided that this year was the right time for him to give it a try.
"I've lived in Bennington my whole life, and I've been watching it and saying, year after year, ‘If somebody doesn't open that I'm going to give it a try.' I finally decided to give it a shot. It's always been a successful business. It's a great area," he said.
Greene said he is receiving a little help from the Paul Palladino, who ran Paul's Fish Fry for years.
"He's older now and his health is not so good, but I called him and he called me back, and he's going to come down and help me out with the original fish," Greene said. "You can't change the wheel. I'm not going to reinvent it, so I'm going to use all the stuff he used."
The restaurant will have separate food and ice cream windows, Greene said. The food side will feature fish frys and other seafood, as well as burgers, hot dogs, french fries and onion rings. The ice cream side will feature Wilcox Dairy hard ice cream.
Greene said he is also planning to have car service, meaning employees will bring menus and orders right to cars in the parking lot. He will also add a delivery service after the business is up and running and employees settle into their jobs.
"I'm going to do deliveries in Bennington," Greene said. "We're going to try and do a 5-mile radius and focus on colleges, old-folks homes."
Prices will be set to allow all residents to patronize the restaurant, according to Greene. "I'm catering to the blue collar worker," he said. "Try to make a profit, not a killing."
The business will open in mid-July and have about 10 employees. Greene said he has "one chance to make a good impression" and is taking care to get everything in place before opening.
Several other restaurants in town also feature fish frys and similar food. Greene said Bennington can support all of them. Competition will improve benefit customers, he said.
"Competition is the best thing you can have. Without competition you have a tendency to not do as well," he said.