Committed To Community

Imagine a group of locally owned and operated restaurants with a purpose to promote, nurture, and protect independent restaurants in the Mt. Washington Valley. Expand that vision to them sharing a commitment to their community by supporting local businesses and by donating a percentage of profits to local organizations, charities, and activities.

Formed in the mid-1980s with only seven members, the Valley Originals (VO) is a non-profit organization that began with a mission to preserve the delicious food and great beauty of our beloved Mt. Washington Valley (MWV). Consisting of owners of pioneer MWV restaurants, some being area staples now for 40, 50, even 60 years—Merlino’s Steakhouse, Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub, Delaney’s Hole in the Wall, Horsefeathers, Shannon Door Pub, Decades Steakhouse & Pub, and Fandangle’s (the last two, no longer in business)—these entrepreneurs recognized a need to protect the integrity of local dining against the growing influx of franchise restaurants flanking small towns in rapid numbers all over the U.S. Instead of competing with one another, they are nurturing the local economy and have fostered an inclusive atmosphere for locally owned and inspired eateries to thrive. These favorite Valley restaurants—now a much larger group—have become landmarks loaded with local history and family memories, while maintaining a passion for excellence in food and service.

Membership

This group takes membership very seriously. In order to be eligible to join, each prospective establishment must be locally owned and operated, of course. All members are required to uphold quality products, high customer satisfaction, and a unique dining experience—which is why it is essential that an owner always be on the premises during operating hours. Each business must have at least three years’ operating experience, and to “proudly display the Valley Originals flag” in a distinguished location for patrons to easily recognize. Once you know it, you can’t miss the bright yellow-gold banner with a familiar fork and plate logo. Once associated, everyone is included in all printed material and website advertisements—providing logos, business profile, and contact information—and must agree to participate in all Valley Original sponsored marketing programs, as well as group donations and fundraising.

Strength in Numbers

Besides the basics, there are more requirements most people may not be aware of. As a group, one common goal is to ensure other local businesses thrive as well. All members must agree to purchase 70 percent of their resources and services from the VO preferred vendor list. Many of the businesses on the list are local, or they are companies that will source locally, as well as offer group discounts or “kickbacks.” For example, because of their unified buying power, one major distributor has obliged their requests for more locally sourced products, also refunding the group 2 percent back on their purchases. One hundred percent of this refund is sent straight to the Valley Originals donation bucket—to be donated to local community non-profits. They are thrilled to be using their influence to give back to the beautiful Mt. Washington Valley they “live in and love.”

The members of the Valley Originals know that they can use their capacity as an organization to support other local businesses in a big way. Imagine the impact 25 restaurants all committed to using a small local print company for their flyers can have, for example. Or 25 big accounts with the local propane provider, local trash collector, local web designer, local bookkeeping company. This consciousness creates a synergistic dynamic, directly putting money back into the pockets of community members who may be friends, neighbors, and customers, alike.

ABOVE: The Valley Originals happily support all Mt. Washington Valley student sports, year round! Happy Nordic team skiers shown above with VO water bottles!

 

Keep in mind, as an organization, the goal of the Valley Originals is not to have all of its members meld together into “cookie-cutter” businesses. Every restaurant has its own unique vision, signature, and style. They are free to manage their own costs and food purchases any way they wish. While members are not required to purchase ingredients from local farms, the practice is certainly encouraged, and demand can be more easily met on a smaller scale. Some businesses have taken this very seriously, being more focused on sourcing local food and products than others, with many of the VO eateries using as many small family farms as possible. If you would like to know more about who is purchasing local food, check out your favorite Valley Originals restaurant website for information.   

Integrity and Local Love    

A final requirement is that members must participate in all Valley Originals fundraising efforts, as well as community donations. One of their goals is to “channel efforts and resources of the independent restaurant community to help improve the quality of life in the Mt. Washington Valley.’’ They want to make sure every member can keep up with their mission statement for donations, which is that “100 percent of donations go back to local people in need.” This partnership is continuously working together to ensure money generated at their 25 restaurants is spread back out into the community that supports them. An easy way for this to happen is for every member to fulfill a minimum donation of 21 gift certificates valued at $25 each, per year, to local fundraising groups. This does not count toward the discount gift certificate sales (of which all of those gift certificates are also donations), which is a local favorite, taking place four times a year.

In recent years, VO has been able to give back over $300,000 annually to the community—with well over a million dollars total in the last five years alone: $1,500,675, to be exact. Yes, those numbers are correct—these people mean more than business.

Upcoming donations on the radar for the winter include a yearly monetary donation of $500 to each of our seven local food banks, as well as cash donations to Angels & Elves, and students of Nordic and downhill ski programs. It’s also time for the end-of-year clean out, when the donation coffers are emptied. There is no carry-over from year-to-year, and VO will gladly find a place or two to unload any leftover funds before beginning a new calendar year.

They are always approached by new causes looking for support. There are over 200 local organizations that have received cash or gift certificate donations from the Valley Originals throughout the years. While the list of non-profit organizations they help is too long to show here, you can visit their website for more information. In recent years, VO has been able to give back over $300,000 annually to the community—with well over a million dollars total in the last five years alone: $1,500,675, to be exact. Yes, those numbers are correct—these people mean more than business.

Membership by Design

By limiting membership to 25 businesses, this ensures the organization is manageable. The Valley Originals can guarantee its unwavering standards are never watered-down, overlooked, or compromised. Executive member Genn Anzaldi, owner of J-Town Deli & Country Store in Jackson, describes how there is a waiting list of other wonderful, local restaurants wishing to join VO, and the current limit could always grow if approved by a member vote in the future. They want to make sure everything is done right, with slow and steady progress. There is plenty of information sharing, discussions on a large range of topics, and voting at the quarterly VO meetings, where full attendance is required, as all members are encouraged to freely express their ideas and opinions. The application process is quite lengthy.

To start, a potential member must first approach the Valley Originals with a request. They will meet with an executive board member and discuss a list of required qualifications and must decide if they agree with all requirements—and will be able to meet them. The voting process then begins, first with the executive board, then on to members at the January meeting. All members are subject to member approval. If you are approved, you are then free to give and receive the many benefits of being a Valley Originals affiliate.

Reaching Out Beyond Members

Twice a year, the Valley Originals hosts open-house events, which are gatherings where all the local lodging and VO business partners are invited to attend. These fun events serve as platforms for the Valley Originals to thank all the lodging partners (all lodging in the MWV area) for sending their guests to be VO guests, as well. Helping to keep “our” guests happy while visiting our Valley to ensure they return again, and again. These “lodging partners” are not VO members but are unique and original businesses in the area. An ever-growing list of the lodging partners is listed on the VO website.

One of their goals is to channel efforts and resources of the independent restaurant community to help improve the quality of life in the Mt. Washington Valley. They want to make sure every member can keep up with their mission statement for donations, which is that 100 percent of donations go back to local people in need.

With over 600 individuals employed among the 25 restaurants, employee concerns are also something the group takes seriously. Their main concerns are housing, livable wages, employee benefits, and good working conditions. The Valley Originals members have hosted open seminars addressing minimum wage issues here in the MWV, encouraging discussions with anyone concerned. They also hold a seat on the local housing coalition. They are always looking for ways to offer employee benefits, as well.

Terry O’Brien (owner of Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub) and Wally Campbell, executive board member and “go-to-man” for the Valley Originals.

 

600 Individuals - 25 Restaurants

There are 600 individuals employed among the 25 restaurants.

180 Organizations - 10k Certificates

So far this year (2019), the Valley Originals have donated to over 180 organizations, given away 10,000 gift certificates, and helped over 10,000 community members!

135 Food Bags per Week

In the Mt. Washington Valley, our local elementary schools receive 135 bags each week throughout the school year, containing two breakfasts, two lunches, and three dinners for the weekend.

600 Individuals - 25 Restaurants

Everyone wins with a Valley Original fundraiser!

Discount Gift Certificate Sales

This event can be found online at www.thevalleyoriginals.com, where you choose from a limited supply of donated gift certificates discounted at 30 percent off, for each of your favorite VO restaurants. The most direct way to say “thank you” to loyal customers, you can purchase a $50 gift certificate for $35, or a $25 gift certificate for $17.50, with every penny generated from this quarterly event going directly into the VO donation fund. The gift certificate raises an average of $8,500 each time it is held.

Dine to Donate

VO members individually host Dine to Donate fundraisers and several host other fundraising events, anything from Bingo for a Cause to simply having a donation bucket for a local cause. The only Dine to Donate Valley Original Member Wide is in May, to support the National End 68 Hours of Hunger campaign. Ok, what does this mean? One facet is that for the duration of the campaign, there is a breakfast, lunch, or dinner special dedicated to the designated cause. So if you purchase a Dine to Donate meal, a portion of that meal is donated to that non-pro

HOW THE VALLEY ORIGINALS SUPPORTS LOCAL FUNDRAISERS

So far this year, the Valley Originals has donated to over 180 organizations, given away 10,000 gift certificates, and helped over 10,000 community members! Here are a few organizations you may recognize that regularly receive sponsorship from the Valley Originals:

Jen’s Friends – 2019 donation: $15,000+
Jen’s Friends Cancer Foundation provides supplemental financial assistance and other resources to cancer patients and their families who are residents of the Mt. Washington Valley who may be underinsured, financially challenged, or uninsured. This alleviates some of the financial burdens they may face, allowing them to focus on fighting cancer and healing. Their annual Climb Against Cancer in September is a great way to get out and support local families. Absolutely 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to help cancer patients. They are currently assisting 70 local families. www.jensfriends.org

Kennett High School Culinary Program and Camp – 2019 donation: $6,000+
In addition to supporting the Kennett High School Culinary Program by being board members, donating food to be prepared by the students for events, helping source equipment, and always looking for interns from the culinary program. They also support one of seven different week-long camps offered at Kennett Middle School each summer. Culinary Camp gives students a hands-on education to every aspect of working in a professional kitchen—from choosing a meal, preparing food, cleaning up the kitchen, and everything in between. Culinary Camp has two phases: one focused on baking, the other focused on meals. The Valley Originals has been a long-time sponsor.

Kennett Athletic Booster Clubs – 2019 donation: $3,000
The mission of the Athletic Booster Clubs is to encourage and support Kennett Middle School and High School athletic teams, cooperate with school administrators in promoting the best interests of the athletic programs and athletes, and foster a sense of school and community pride through athletic programs at both schools. They encourage sportsmanship, leadership, enthusiasm, and proficiency in sports, presenting an award annually to an outstanding athlete in each sport. https://sports.kcsd.org/booster-club

Starting Point – 2019 donation: $3,000
This is a non-profit, providing services for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Carroll County. With seven full-time staff members, one part-time staff member, and over 30 volunteers, they provide over 15,000 hours of service to the community each year. They provide shelter, a 24-hour support line, advocacy, support groups, education and prevention programs, and legal accompaniment. Their annual, sold-out Boots-n-Bling Gala is a huge fundraiser sponsored by VO. The Valley Originals member, Black Cap Grille, is hosting a Dine to Donate for Starting Point on January 7th from 5 to 9 p.m. www.startingpointnh.org

Angels and Elves – annual donation: $3,000+
Operated by the Kiwanis Club of the Mt. Washington Valley, our local Angels and Elves helps families unable to provide gifts for their children for Christmas. Through fundraising and solicitation of sponsors, over 700 children receive a minimum of eight wrapped gifts of winter clothing and toys each holiday season. www.mwvkiwanis.org/angels-and-elves-frequently-asked-questions

 End 68 Hours of Hunger – 2019 donation: $3,500
This is a national, public non-profit, with the goal to relieve food insecurity some school children face between the time they leave school on Friday afternoon and return to school Monday morning. In the Mt. Washington Valley, our local elementary schools receive 135 bags each week throughout the school year, containing two breakfasts, two lunches, and three dinners for the weekend. Meals are also given to the Conway Head Start program, and Kennett Middle School and High School food closets. The Valley Originals holds an annual Dine to Donate fundraiser for the month of May that benefits our local End 68 Hours of Hunger chapter. www.end68hoursofhunger.org

Choose an Original

The innovative members of the Valley Originals have joined together to keep the Valley original, in a place where nationally recognized chain restaurants and businesses are constantly trying to push their way in. Many of these restaurants are classic landmarks that have not changed a bit, serving as cornerstones in our town: mandatory stops for travelers looking to soak up some familiar ambiance when they visit, regular meeting places for local residents who want to enjoy a night out, a great breakfast or lunch gathering.

  • 302 West Smokehouse And Tavern, Fryeburg 207-935-3021
  • Almost There Albany, 603-447-2325
  • Black Cap Grille, North Conway, 603-356-2225
  • Cafe Noche, Conway, 603-447-5050
  • Cider Company, Glen, 603-383-9061
  • Christmas Farm Inn, Jackson, 603-383-4313
  • Deacon Street, North Conway, 603-356-9231
  • Delaney’s Hole In The Wall, North Conway, 603-356-7776
  • Horsefeathers, North Conway, 603-356-6862
  • Josephs Spaghetti Shed, Glen, 603-383-6680
  • J-Town Deli and Country Store, Jackson, 603-383-8064
  • Margarita Grill, Glen, 603-383-6556
  • Max’s at Snow Village Inn, Eaton Center, 603-447-2818
  • McGrath’s Tavern, North Conwa, 603-733-5955
  • Merlino’s Steakhouse, North Conway, 603-356-6006
  • Moat Mountain Smokehouse, North Conway,603-356-6381
  • Nochland Inn, Hart’s Location, 603-374-6131
  • Oxford House Inn, Fryeburg, ME, 207-935-3442
  • Priscilla’s, North Conway, 603-356-0401
  • Red Parka Steakhouse Pub, Glen, 603-383-4344
  • Shalimar Of India, North Conway, 603-356-0123
  • Shannon Door Pub, Jackson, 603-383-4211
  • The Shovel Handle Pub, Jackson, 603-383-8916
  • Thompson House Eatery, Jackson, 603-383-9341
  • Wildcat Tavern, Jackson, 603-383-4245

Whether a weekly or seasonal visitor, you can rely on stepping into your favorite Valley Original après-ski tavern, sports pub, café, or breakfast place, to find that cozy atmosphere, unique family recipes, and friendly faces you expect year after year. You can choose to spend your money on a full-circle dining experience, each one as unique as the mountains surrounding them.

To impart an old bit of wisdom: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” I think most of us would agree, this truth applies best to no other place than Mt. Washington Valley. And we like it that way.

Catch this article in the Winter 2019/20 printed edition of Mt Washington Valley Vibe available at any of these locations around the region