Business partners Ed Labonville, left, and Rob Roy opened up Guldie's, a 30-seat restaurant at 715 Main Street in Berlin, formerly Lam's Kitchen on June 3. Guldie's, which opens daily at 10 p.m. and closes 14 hours later at 2 p.m., often serves over 150 guests on weekends and over 100 on weekdays.
Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
September 18, 2013BERLIN — The fall issue of New Hampshire's Food Bank newsletter features Guldie's restaurant and its chief chef, Rob Roy, a graduate of the Food Bank's Culinary Job Training Program.
"You don't typically see people bringing food into a restaurant but it is business as usual at Guldie's," the article begins. "Guldie's, which is fast becoming the 'place to be' in Berlin, is not only known for its energy, atmosphere and large portions, but also its mission to help give back to the community."
Roy came into the Food Bank program with more culinary knowledge than most because he had already owned and operated his own restaurants in both Jamaica Plain, a.k.a. J.P., a historic section of Boston, Mass., and for a dozen years in Conway.
Unlike his previous restaurants, the writer points out, however, "Guldie's aims to help feed those in need."
"With over 150 guests in the restaurant on Saturdays and Sundays, and over 100 guests on each weekday, customers are well aware of the mission and are more than willing to help," the article reads. "Every time two or more non-perishable food items are brought in, guests receive 10 percent off their bill on that visit — a 'win-win' by any standard."
On Saturday, Sept. 14, the tally listed on an old-fashioned chalkboard near the entrance stood at 996 pounds donated to four hunger-relief agencies in the Berlin area plus a total of 296 free meals quietly provided to those in need without any fanfare or questions asked.
"We think this one little restaurant can help with the hunger situation in this area for folks in need," Roy, a native of Bath, Me., told the newsletter writer. He said he also volunteers his paralegal skills.
Roy's business partner, Ed Labonville, a native of Manchester who is a longtime Head Start volunteer, serves as Guldie's maitre d'hôtel, seating customers and giving out menus, filling cups of coffee, wiping down tables and resetting them, and speeding service.
On Saturday, not long before the place closed at 2 p.m., full-time waitress Shauntel Mortenson of Berlin, a mother of two — a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Adriana, and a five-month-old son, Dominic — efficiently delivered a hefty hot Monte Cristo, with pickle and a mound of hot French fries, plus a large steaming cup of black coffee.
Former state Rep. Renny Morneau noted that the Berlin High School freshmen who had come for a snack after the Homecoming Parade the previous evening had had a wonderful time.
"We had 70 people last night, starting at 10 p.m.," Roy said. "Our regular night-time customers are police officers, including state police troopers, shift workers — mill workers, nurses and LPNs from AVH and nursing homes — and people leaving bars who need a bite plus those who are just lonely," he explained. "We were open for 100 days straight before taking a single day off last week when we shut down for a short break so we don't burn out. We don't advertise — it's all word of mouth."
According to the menu, Guldie's is short for Gulderen, a Turkish word for "Gatherer of Roses." Labonville has spent time in Turkey, which he notes was an early center of Christianity.
Roy's 13-year-old son, also named Robert, is a seventh-grader at the Berlin Middle School.