THE CLOSEST FARM is miles away. But for patrons of Applewood restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., it might as well be in the backyard.
With an oversized brick fireplace in the dining room and black-and-white photos of local farmers adorning the butter-yellow walls, the décor alone embodies a rustic, turn-of-the-century farmhouse. Add in dishes such as house-made charcuterie, pan-roasted Vermont pork and chocolate potato cake and anyone would be hard-pressed to remember that bustling New York City is outside instead.
However, this bucolic bistro’s co-owners, Laura and David Shea, would say that each day’s menu with its ever-changing array of farm-fresh veggies and hormone- and antibiotic-free meats are the real organic bird feathers in Applewood’s cap.
“Chefs probably get too much credit,” says David, who is Applewood’s chef. “At the end of the day, it’s really all about what we get to work with.”
Your name: David and Laura Shea (pictured)
Name of business: Applewood
Year founded: 2004
Business type (industry): Restaurant
Location: Park Slope, Brooklyn
No. of employees: 14
Web address: www.applewoodny.com
The couple in 2007 opened a retail kitchen shop, Applewares, in the same neighborhood with two employees.
Where do you look for business advice? (Mentors? Industry or trade groups? Family and friends?)
We generally make all business-y decisions based on advice from each other and from bouncing ideas off our current staff. We’ve had the good fortune to maintain a number of employees for a relatively long time and value their opinions, as they are the ones most closely dealing with our customers.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
We’ll have to get back to you on this one…
What’s the smartest move you’ve made so far?
Never compromising our values. We agreed at the beginning that if we ever found ourselves thinking about cutting quality (whether it be the food, the linens, etc.) in order to make more money, we would just close the business instead. We’ve stuck to our guns and only offer a product and experience that we know in our hearts is the absolute best we can provide to our guests.
What’s the best business book you’ve read so far?
“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss
In brief, how did you fund the business initially?
We had friends and an outside investor who provided the initial funding. We were able to separate ourselves from that relationship within the first year and now we own it ourselves.
And extra credit, please answer: When/where was your last vacation?
We were very lucky to have a fun and relaxing week in the Bahamas with our kids over their midwinter break in February.
The reverence for farm-fresh victuals combined with David’s ability to mix up delectable recipes with whatever ingredients are available that day has been delighting area residents since Applewood opened its doors in 2004. A recent review in the Zagat Survey, an influential restaurant guide, calls the restaurant “unpretentious” with an “excellent menu” and “cozy and warm” dining room. The eatery has even attracted food snobs from nearby Manhattan, not to mention customers from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont.