River Junction Restaurant & Bar reopens

Manager: 'Our plan was always to reopen'

HERSEY — As many businesses and restaurants are reopening following ever-changing restrictions and COVID-19 putting a damper on business, one local eatery has recently reopened.

River Junction Restaurant & Bar has been a staple of the Reed City community for the past decade, and the staff is looking to make a big fall comeback as the summer season comes to a close.

Located at 107-109 Main Street in Hersey, the restaurant has new and unique menu options for visitors including dinner specials and live music. It reopened Tuesday, and hours are 3-8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Sarah Sharp, general manager of River Junction, said the COVID-19 pandemic hit their restaurant hard and forced a closure that they initially thought would be brief.

“We opened originally in December of 2011, and we have had a lovely run of it until COVID hit in March 2020,” Sharp said. “When we started hearing about the virus, we instantly tried to protect our community. We pulled the condiments from the tables before that was required. Then we closed thinking that it would be short and temporary. Sadly that wasn’t the case.”

Staff and management took advantage of the pandemic shutdown and made several updates in the back kitchen, repainted and rearranged equipment, replaced a few appliances, and reorganized the entire space.

Sharp said that using the time the restaurant was closed allowed the staff to make necessary changes, as well as participate in some special events.

“We also made updates to our backyard, and it’s a wonderful space fully fenced in with five octagon picnic tables and a small stage for live music that has been underutilized in the past,” Sharp said. “We’ve also built an outdoor bar area that we will be using soon. In fact, in October 2020 we held both my own wedding and the wedding of our kitchen manager Shane Cooley in the backyard. We are hoping to be able to offer the area as another venue option in the area, but that’s in the future plans.”

The dining room and take-out are available, but the bar is currently closed. After updates are made to the furnace and air conditioner in that part of the building, there will be a grand reopening date announced.

Sharp said the goal was always to reopen and that overcoming the obstacles has been a challenge, but one the staff has risen to meet.

“There are a few staff members returning but there will be lots of new faces,” Sharp said. “I’ve been doing interviews all week in preparation for our reopening.

"When we shut down, our plan was always to reopen. I know there was worry that we wouldn’t be, but I have always been planning this. We’ve had some hiccups along the way and had to postpone several times, but we are excited to get reopen sooner than that and start taking care of our patrons. We have definitely missed all our regulars since we’ve shut down.”

Sharp said the goal is to do a softer opening in early September, then be able to expand and open more parts of the restaurant and a full menu.

“For the future, we want to provide a space for live music, homemade homestyle menu, signature drinks, brick oven pizzas, and more,” Sharp said. “For now, we are offering a limited menu and dining in the dining room only. We will be expanding our menu to include our homemade desserts, soups, and specials a few weeks after reopening. But with the shortages everywhere, we are taking it slowly.”

The restaurant is currently searching for staff to hire, and Sharp said the reopening could also provide some opportunities for employment in the area.

“We are happy to have several eager high schoolers joining our staff and to be another employment opportunity for the village of Hersey,” Sharp said. “The response from the community has always been ‘we miss you, when are you reopening.’ We are a happy place for friends and relatives to enjoy good homemade food and a friendly atmosphere.”

Moving forward, Sharp said the goal is to bring the community together through a positive atmosphere and good food.

“Honestly our hope is that we will be able to keep going forward forever making improvements and being a place of joy in the community,” Sharp said.

For more information on updates from River Junction Restaurant & Bar, visit their Facebook page listed under the restaurant’s name.