Meet the Chef: Beth Marr from Almost Home Market in Bristol

OK, so Beth Marr might not be a chef by training, but she’s been in the food and service industry for over 25 years. Plus she’s originally from Louisiana so she’s got some of that southern hospitality in her blood. But working in food service can test even the best of the best.
After a 20-year career as a wedding and event planner at Bolton Valley Resort and Basin Harbor Club, Marr took the opportunity to buy Almost Home Market in April 2012 with Gary Smith (but he’s not involved anymore). The Bristol eatery and shop was previously owned by Linda Hansen and Beth Newman-Place and occupied the entire building. When Marr purchased the business (and many of their recipes) she found the space too large for what her customers needed, and frankly too expensive to maintain.
So, she divided it in half. Literally the landlord put a wall straight through the middle of the building. Now she shares the building with Alison Zimmer, a physical therapist and crazy fast mountain biker.
“It’s not perfect,” said Marr in an interview last week. “But it is so much better than it was … Plus now, Ally’s clients can come enjoy a cappuccino while they wait instead of sitting in some sterile waiting room.”
Other than the size of the place, not much else has changed, and that’s something Marr is working on. “We have to change more,” she said. “This town is hard to do business in. Every year we lose our best customer ? every year!” The Vergennes resident lamented Bristol’s losses since 2012: Autumn Harp consolidated to it’s Essex location, Optimal Energy moved to Hinesburg; Aqua Vitea moved to Middlebury and Vermont Bike Tours moved to Williston.
On top of these losses, Marr cited the State of Vermont’s report that restaurants in the Green Mountain State were down by 40 percent last year. “We weren’t,” she said. Knock wood. “But with all this energy around local and quality food now, people are cooking for themselves more.”
“But we are a true convenience store,” Marr clarified “just with better food.” It’s true. For around $12 you can take home a plate of dinner that looks like it’s made by yo’ mama. Only, it’s not. It’s probably made by Justin Wedge of Starksboro ? he’s the head of the kitchen at Almost Home Market and a darn good baker too. Jeannie Cash of Bristol is the other baker at the shop, but she’s on maternity leave for now.
“The worst part about it, is the size of the business requires lots of staff,” said 52-year-old Marr. “And we never have enough staff.” Currently Marr’s looking for a sandwich maker. “We’re open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week (pretty much) and there’s only one of me.”
Yeah. That’s a lot of work. Add to that the hopes of launching a new menu later this fall and increasing the wedding planning and catering side of the business. Marr is a busy lady.
“What keeps me going is the bottom line: I want the end product to be beyond great for my customers,” said Marr. That, and she manages to take time off to travel and spend time on her boats. “I’m here at the shop a lot, however, I made a commitment to myself to take trips; we have to get away.”
Next up, Marr and Van (her partner of 22 years) will head to Tobago for Carnival in February. 

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