Beverly Gannon Speaks Out on Why Joe’s Closed
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaaLqI956Kw /] By Kiaora Bohlool
Chef Beverly Gannon thought she had found “the ones” to take the reins at her longtime Wailea restaurant, and eventually take it over completely. Gannon says she also thought she was ready to retire.
“I went on Social Security and Medicare this year! I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” she says. “I was kind of looking to have somebody who, 20 years from now, would just keep the business going.”
Earlier this year, Gannon entered into a business arrangement with Greg Shepherd and Chef Roger Stettler of Island Restaurant Management. It provided them with independent control of Joe’s Bar and Grill in Wailea, with plans for a full buy-out in Fall 2015.
“I think we all had the best of intentions; my intention was to bring some people in to eventually, within five or six years, mail me checks,” she explains. “It was letting them get into these businesses which have been successful for 28, 30 years without having to come up with a huge amount of money. It was gonna be their blood, sweat and tears.”
The new team transformed Joe’s Bar and Grill, known for its upscale American fare and comfort food, into Joe’s Nuevo Latino, a hip, modern blend of Latin cuisine from around the world.
But it didn’t seem to catch on quickly enough with customers, says Gannon, whose original concept for the space was a simpler, Mexican restaurant. She says the Latin direction was “ a little too mainland,” too pricey, and with items like beef tongue on the menu, too quirky for customers.
“I’m telling you the food was amazing, it really was amazing,” she says. “But I gotta say, a little guacamole and chips and a few enchiladas to get people in the door to see what those other dishes were like, you had to have something that got them in that was familiar. ”
Gannon opened Joe’s almost 20 years ago, and says the first 15 years were very successful. But with more competition in Wailea, business has slowed in the last few years.
“It was time to change it, and I thought I had found the people to change it but boy, was I wrong!” Gannon adds the management agreement with Shepherd and Stettler ended in June. “They were very autonomous with Joe’s. I had nothing to do with it, other than I was on the hook for everything,” she says. “A sale was supposed to happen in the Fall, and then it all just fell apart, and honestly they just walked out. Left me holding a few bills, to say the least.”
Shepherd and Stettler were unavailable for comment on the matter.
After retaking the reins and hoping lower prices and a simplified menu would draw in customers, Gannon says she realized what was coming: the notoriously slow months of September and October. So she made the decision to shut the doors on August 19.
On August 20? “Now I just have to take a deep breath,” explains Gannon. “I sort of had to pull the covers over my head for 24 hours and go, ‘This really didn’t happen, did it?!’ But it did, and now it’s, ‘Where do we go from here?’”
As leaseholder of the Wailea location, she still has a few months to figure that out, thanks to a “gracious landlord.” Gannon hopes to have Joe’s up and running again in some fashion by mid-November, and says there may be opportunities in her own backyard involving current employees, who she calls “incredible.”
Gannon speaks highly of former employee Gary Johnson, the Chef de Cuisine from Joe’s Nuevo Latino. She hopes to maintain a working relationship with him, and even has plans to showcase his talents upcountry next month.
“He is going to do some Latin dinners at Hali’imaile General Store during that September-October period,” she says, adding she’d like to get a winery or brewery involved in the special events. “So all the people who didn’t get down to Joe’s and taste his food will see what it was like. Because it was amazing.”
Gannon remains the proprietor of award-winning restaurants Hali’imaile General Store and Gannon’s, A Pacific View Restaurant, as well as Maui’s longest-running catering company, Celebrations Catering & Events.
“I still feel very successful; I feel like the people I entrusted my business to obviously were not very successful in how they handled things,” Gannon explains. “I don’t wish them ill, really. I wish they’d pay the bills, but lesson learned for me.”
Other lessons? That she may not want what she’d been wishing for. Meaning, retirement may have to wait. “It’s actually made me realize, this is what I love doing. What am I gonna do if I don’t do this?”
And a huge life lesson Gannon says she learned long ago: only dwell on the negative for so long; then let it go.
“I give myself a specific amount of time to mourn it, it can never be more than 24 hours, sometimes it’s two hours, sometimes it’s 10 minutes,” she says. “Then it has to be, ‘Go away,’ because I don’t want that negative in my world, in my life, ‘cause it doesn’t do any good. We’re just gonna move forward, and who knows what’s gonna happen?” It is kind of exciting.”
As Gannon told me, “Stay tuned.”