LUDLOW, Vt. – For more than two decades, the large, red barn near the base of Okemo Mountain has been known as The Loft Tavern, a storied après-ski and sports bar. Visitors rave about its “cozy atmosphere,” “old school vibes,” “quirky, great beer list,” and “huge portions.” During ski season, the place gets jam-packed with tourists, seasonal employees from the mountain, and area residents.
In May 2022, Tom Koch, The Loft’s self-proclaimed, “grumpy owner,” was ready to retire. Koch knew that after over 20 years of back-breaking work, it would be important to leave the restaurant in capable hands. He made an offer to three of his employees: Rebecca Holland, Dorothy Josselyn, and Marie O’Hare. O’Hare had been at The Loft for seven years, Holland and Josselyn each worked there for five. The women were already friends and collaborative co-workers, and admit they didn’t need much convincing before inking the deal.
“Now,” Josselyn says with a smile. “It’s five months later, and bam. Here we are.”
Speaking with the new proprietors last week, it was obvious the trio was motivated and excited to assume their new roles. Also clear was that it’s their regular customers, especially the locals, who are the heart of the place and the motivation to keep traditions going.
“We’re like a big family,” Holland claims. Josselyn and O’Hare quickly agreed.
The women will still serve customers and tend the bar, and they don’t seem too worried about added challenges. Being veterans of the restaurant industry with varied experience, they plan to split responsibilities, leaning into their individual strengths. “When you own a restaurant, you’re really married to it,” Holland points out. “But, with three of us, we’ll be able to cover for each other and still, you know, have a life.”
O’Hare worked as General Manager for an Irish pub company for years and is the most familiar with all the paperwork required to operate a restaurant, so she’s handling much of the administrative duties. “But, it’s been great,” she asserts. “No one feels like they’re doing more than anyone else.”
There are no plans to make any big changes to the current menu. Known for their chicken wings, pulled pork, and brisket, as well as long-time favorites like poutine fries and a serving-tray-sized helping of loaded nachos, the co-owners admit to adopting a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” philosophy. Koch handed over his famous recipes and trained the new kitchen staff.
“Tom made the transition very smooth,” said O’Hare gratefully.
The women say they especially appreciate the encouragement they’ve received from their regulars and the other employees. “We really do all take care of each other, and have each other’s backs.” Holland states. “I mean, we fight like brothers and sisters, but then we make up, and it’s fine!”
There is a large window next to the front entrance of The Loft, which customers will pass if they’re walking up from the parking lot. One example of this spirit of family and community is a friendly competition between the women where they try to spot a customer through the window and grab their usual drink order before they get to the bar. It’s one way they make people feel welcome and comfortable, and adds to the casually friendly atmosphere.
The 2022–2023 ski season is expected to be another busy one, and the three, newly minted business owners appear more than ready to lead The Loft into a new, less grumpy era.