An old restaurant with a new twist
By Erin Mansfield
Correspondent | March 17,2014
Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
From left, Kristin Guitar, Kyle McQuarrie and Vicky Guitar, owners of the recently re-opened Qu’s Whistle Stop Restaurant in Clarendon, prepare to serve a customer’s order on Sunday.
The old Whistle Stop Restaurant in North Clarendon is open again, filling a void and giving a new entrepreneur a chance to show everyone what she’s made of.
Vicky Guitar, owner of the former Qu’s Breakfast and Burgers on Strongs Avenue in Rutland, has taken over the old establishment and combined her eight signature burgers from Rutland with Clarendon’s quaint railroad depot in hopes of creating her own legacy.
The 24-seat restaurant, which opened last month, is called Qu’s Whistle Stop Restaurant, and she said she could not be happier with the new location.
“All I’ve ever done is run restaurants for other people,” said Guitar, a 52-year-old veteran of the restaurant business who has been in Vermont since 1998. “I felt definitely qualified to make it on my own.”
“The people here have been very nice,” she added.
“We love it here,” said Sue Wildman, 58, of Cuttingsville. “It’s close to home. We don’t have to go all the way into Rutland.”
She and her husband have been at the restaurant to sit in the 1950s-style booths two to three days per week since it re-opened. Her husband, Bruce, said he loves the baked goods.
“Business in Rutland was tough,” she said, adding that it was hard to pinpoint exactly what — be it competition or location — made her diner difficult to keep afloat.
“There wasn’t a lot of parking,” she said of her old location. “There were people who would say, ‘We were going to stop by, but there was nowhere to park.’”
The new establishment not only has its own parking lot, but is a stone’s throw from the historic Rutland Railroad’s East Clarendon stop, built circa 1914. Wanda Webster, the Whistle Stop’s original owner, moved the depot building to the other side of the railroad tracks, put a foundation underneath it, and added a caboose to serve as a snack bar in the summer, according to Wildman.
“We used to come here when Wanda owned it,” said Vicki Seward, 48, of East Wallingford. “It was closed for one to two years.”
The building was eventually sold in a foreclosure auction for $70,000 in August 2013, which was less than half of the building’s assessed value of $155,000 at the time.
Guitar decided to lease the new property and move her business in hopes of combining the Whistle Stop’s established facility and name recognition with her customer base in Rutland City.
Megan Smith, state Department of Tourism commissioner, said that’s a great idea, especially for visitors to the area who are looking for restaurants using social media like Yelp or Tripadvisor.
“In this new movement of really good food, their local clientele will follow them,” she added. “People are demanding good food, and they’re telling their friends.”
“You have to have something for everybody,” Smith said. “You have to have affordable kind of niche items.”
Guitar’s 7-ounce burgers include everything from buffalo to Southwest style, and are available on gluten-free rolls, and sold at prices between $7.95 and $9.49.
“People all know it. There are a lot of people in the surrounding towns who missed it,” she said. “A lot of our customers have followed us out here.”
Guitar says she will extend dinner hours past 7 p.m. over time. She plans to open the attached caboose as a snack bar to serve ice cream and milkshakes when the weather warms up.
“This is the last job I want to have,” she said.