A local restaurant served its final meal this past Saturday, September 18, and entered a period of indefinite closure.
The Arcadian, located at 7 Bakery Lane in Middlebury, announced via Facebook on Aug. 26 that it would be closing its doors due to a severe staffing shortage.
“Having successfully navigated the darkest days of Covid, we thought the hardest part was behind us,” the Facebook post read. “As it turns out, the staffing crisis that has gripped our industry on every level was ultimately an insurmountable challenge to our operational goals at night.”
According to Matt Corrente, co-owner of the Arcadian, it was initially a struggle to find enough staff to open the restaurant for normal hours during the summer.
“Heading into the summer, [we were] looking to staff up and replace some of the positions lost due to downsizing,” he said.
Matt Corrente said that the restaurant was ultimately able to put together a patchwork team of part-time employees, which mainly consisted of college students from Castleton University and the University of Vermont for the summer months. However, many of these employees had to move on toward the end of August as they graduated or returned to a full-time class schedule.
“The return to school season hit us pretty hard,” Matt Corrente said. “That was just too much of a loss to rebuild and expect to stay open.”
According to Matt Corrente, despite the reluctance of many to return to indoor dining during parts of the pandemic, the Arcadian did not struggle to attract customers this past summer. Rather, the limiting factor all summer was their dwindling number of staff members.
“We had a surplus of demand all summer,” he said. “[It was a] bummer not to be able to handle it head on with a robust team.”
During the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020, Matt Corrente had to furlough nearly his entire team, he said, downsizing from 30 employees to four. This summer, the Arcadian got back up to 21 employees, but the difference of nine staff members from pre-pandemic times put a lot of stress on the team.
“It is hard to hold up the same amount of weight in terms of the customer demand with a skeleton crew,” Matt Corrente said.
As a result of the smaller staff this summer, the restaurant had to switch to just serving dinner Wednesday through Saturday, rather than Tuesday through Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch, as they did in pre-pandemic times. In recent weeks, they were forced to reduce the hours further to just Friday and Saturday dinner.
Though the Arcadian is closing, the breakfast and lunch spot Haymaker Bun Company, which shares the same space, will remain open. Haymaker Buns opened at the same time as the Arcadian in November 2018 and is owned by Corrente’s wife, Caroline Corrente. Caroline Corrente is also a co-owner of the Arcadian.
Though Haymaker also experienced some struggles with finding employees over the summer, they have mostly been able to retain staff heading into the fall and maintain their pre-pandemic hours of operation.
Caroline Corrente said that she has noticed that now people are often shying away from working night jobs at restaurants. “My theory is that people in general are more apt to want to work during the day,” she said. “Our hours are a little more forgiving.”
Though the closure of the Arcadian dismays both Matt and Caroline Corrente, Caroline Corrente said she is looking forward to focusing all of her energy toward growing Haymaker.
According to Caroline Corrente, as a result of the closure of the Arcadian, Haymaker will no longer have to stop serving lunch at 3 p.m. In addition, Haymaker may add an extra day of service, lengthen hours of operations and expand into catering or the wholesale distribution of frozen products.
“[We are] listening to the customers and hearing what they want more of,” Caroline Corrente said.
After experiencing firsthand the impacts of labor shortages in the restaurant industry on the Arcadian, Corrente said she and her husband are urging the Middlebury community to support Haymaker in any way possible.
“We’ve hired a lot of excellent Middlebury students in the past, and it’s been a good place for people to learn,” she said. “[We are] encouraging students to come out and show their support both as employees and as patrons.”
Maggie Reynolds '24 is a local editor.
Maggie previously served as a staff writer, frequently covering local businesses and the political climate on campus. She interned as a reporter at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY this past summer.
Maggie intends to study History and Spanish, with a possible minor in Political Science. She is also a member of the Women's Swimming and Diving team. Maggie enjoys hiking, exploring swimming holes, and watching Mamma Mia.