Business success, as in real estate, is often determined by: location, location, location.
But what do you do when circumstances in your community change dramatically?
You fall back on two secrets of success: focusing on what you do well and perseverance.
That is what the owners at the Forester Pub and Grill did two years ago, when the Sierra Pacific lumber mill in the small community of Camino shut down.
The Forester Pub and Grill is a cozy, family style restaurant with a long heritage in California’s Gold Country. Hungry mill workers, gold miners and their families patronized the quaint building on Carson Road for close to a century. Today, locals and tourists continue to do so.
“In the early 20th century, it was known as the Antlers Club,” said Bill Carey, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Helen, and son Tristan. “Then, it was the Cable House for 20 years. We opened as the Forester Pub and Grill in January 2002.”
The Careys are the former proprietors of the St. Pauli Inn, which they opened in 1986. The Inn specialized in German-American fare; a nod to Bill’s training at Café Vienna in San Diego, where he was taught by a Czech chef who worked in Austria. The Careys sold the St. Pauli Inn in 2007, choosing to focus entirely on the Forester Pub and Grill.
“I’ve always liked this building and location,” Bill said. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Business was good. Mill workers walked up the street from the mill every day to sit down to a hearty lunch. At the close of the day, the pub was a great place to lift a brew with friends or have a delicious dinner with family.
Then the mill closed.
“That closure cost Camino 180 jobs,” Bill said. “That really affected the local economy.”
The Careys quickly assessed the situation.
“All you can really do is control your labor costs,” he said. “We’ve done that by remaining a family-run restaurant. My son and I work the bar. Our nephew works in the kitchen. Helen runs the restaurant.”
Another asset the Careys realized they had was: location, location, location.
“We are well located in Apple Hill,” Bill said. “In the fall, there are the Apple Hill tourists. In October, the ‘Pumpkin Heads’ come up for locally grown pumpkins. In November, the Apple Hill farms are doing well. In December, you see the Christmas tree cutters.”
Those on the Apple Hill Farms Trail who discover the Forester Pub and Grill quickly become lifetime converts, returning again and again. The fare is hearty and delicious.
“We have good size portions,” Bill said. “We don’t mess around.”
The Forester offers a simple menu with a large number of selections and continental fare.
Bill keeps an eye out make sure that all items are top quality.
“One thing I take issue with is places that try to cut corners on the quality,” he said. “We use real unsalted butter for our roux and regular butter for serving at the table, not whipped butter with air and ice whipped in. We use rice oils for frying. We don’t use any cheap soy oils or butter substitutes. We offer fairly elegant food in a family, casual setting.”
Popular dinner entrées include traditional “surf and turf” – ranging from chicken parmigiana to top sirloin steak to a generous Captain’s Platter that features tempura-battered Alaskan cod, fried calamari and shrimp scampi. Dinners are served with a choice of steak fries, mashed potatoes and gravy or brown rice pilaf, onion rings, peas or mixed vegetables, and soup or salad.
After the closure of the St. Pauli Inn, the Careys reintroduced some locally popular continental dishes. Lovers of jaegerschnitzel, wienerschitzel and Heidelberg steak can find their favorites here, and many others. Continental fare comes with culturally appropriate sides, such as spaetzle and red cabbage, depending on the dish.
When visiting the Forester, one can order lunch or dinner — all day. There are six pub favorites on the menu, sandwiches and tacos. There is also a hearty kid’s menu. (Tip: Adults who are light eaters are welcome to order from the kid’s menu).
The Forester offers a modest but good selection of local and imported beers and wines. Wines by the glass are a generous 8 ounces.
During the winter months, it is not unusual for the Forester to be filled with hungry families, enjoying the warmth of the wood stoves and the friendly staff.
“People call us the local ‘Cheers,’” Bill said. “We know our customers, and even strangers feel comfortable here.”
The Forester is open year-round. During the summer months, the Forester often serves as the location for private parties and wedding rehearsal dinners. Interested parties can contact Helen for arrangements.
“We’re right across the street from the Camino Hotel Bed and Breakfast that is now open,” Bill said. “It’s a lovely base of operations for families and wedding parties.”
The Forester Pub and Grill is located at 4110 Carson Road in the heart of Camino. Business hours are 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Open until 9 p.m. during the summer. For more information, call 530-644-1818.