Once again, diners and partiers will be paying a call on the Adams family.
The operators of Adams Pine Creek Buffet & Catering – displaced, disrupted and devastated by a fire at their Amwell site April 28 – are planning to reopen in the spring at 875 W. Chestnut St., Washington. Charlene Adams, the owner, closed on the purchase of the former Eat’n Park there Thursday, almost exactly eight months to the day of their fateful blaze.
“We had been in a sense of depression for eight months,” said Chuck Adams, 52. “Losing Adams Pine Creek was like losing a member of the family.”
“When we made the offer and it was accepted a month ago, that was probably our best night’s sleep since the fire,” said Charlene Adams, his wife.
Charlene, 54, is officially the owner, but considers herself a tri-owner along with her husband and brother-in-law, Wayne Adams, 55. “I don’t feel it’s mine alone,” she said. “It’s ours and always has been.”
The three certainly are the lifeblood of this endeavor, and not just by lending their name. Chuck and Wayne are the chefs and Charlene the “baker and financial wizard,” according to her spouse.
Chuck said the purchase price was $425,000, negotiated down from the $500,000 Eat’n Park initially sought.
Even before renovations, this will be a much different venue than the old, red, rural barn in which they ran their business for 11 years. It is in a city, 8.5 miles north of the Amwell Township site, with all public utilities. There will be a larger population nearby, serviced by three major arteries: Route 19 and Interstates 79 and 70. And the old Eat’n Park, with about 5,000 square feet, is a bit more spacious than the barn was.
“One thing that’s going to be different is that it will take longer than five minutes to get to work,” said Chuck, who lives in the Lone Pine-Amity area with Charlene.
“We should have more seats here,” Charlene said.
Not that the family wanted to leave Weaver Run Road.
“We tried and tried to rebuild where we were,” Chuck said, adding that the family planned to construct a facility there with 6,000 square feet. “The community and township officials were pulling for us. It was never any, ‘I don’t know if we should let you build here.’ It was always a go with them.
“But we figured out the cost to rebuild there, and it was prohibitive.”
He said the three looked at two other Washington sites, the former USA Steakhouse and Club 40, “but neither was a good fit for us.”
As previously, Adams Pine Creek will be open five days, Wednesdays through Sundays. Chuck, however, said the doors probably will open at 3 p.m., an hour earlier than before. The closing time hasn’t been determined.
The Adamses also may expand their employee staff from roughly a dozen to 18 or 20, Chuck said.
Before the fire, Adams Pine Creek was a popular and well-regarded establishment that had a devoted core of regular diners and attracted local residents and travelers from elsewhere in the tri-state region. The catering end likewise had a strong clientele.
“We’re pretty much a buffet restaurant with a lot of carved buffet items, all from scratch,” Chuck said. “We don’t use processed foods. And everyone loves Charlene’s desserts.”
Among the favorites: the walnut bar, apple crisp and peanut butter cheesecake.
But before those dishes and others can make a comeback, the family will have to change the interior of their new Pine Creek site. They prefer to cook with gas, and Eat’n Park, Chuck said, cooked strictly with electricity. So, the Adamses will be discarding some of the restaurant equipment that the company left behind and complete the conversion to gas.
The family also plans to make the decor similar to the rural feel it had in the barn. And they are working on a website that, they hope, will be operating by the end of January.
The restaurant and catering operation wasn’t born in that barn, but in the former Lone Pine Elementary School in 1999. It prospered quickly and outgrew the school within two years, when the Adamses moved their venture to Amwell in July 2001.
Eleven and a half years later, they are making another transition. One change Charlene anticipates is having a more manic end of year, business-wise, than she is accustomed to because of an increase in holiday shoppers stopping by the new restaurant.
“Normally, we slow down in December. Now we’re near the malls. That may be different.”
For the first time since April, she, her husband and brother-in-law are upbeat about the venture they started.
“We’ve had a lot of well-wishers telling us they are looking forward to us opening,” Charlene said.
“We’re getting excited,” her husband said. “We’re coming up with ideas. The juices are starting to flow again. Hopefully, we’ll come back bigger and better.”