Perfect Wife closing Saturday after 23 years
The business' finances and the lack of available, reliable employees meant Chamberlain was never able to attain the work-life balance she needed after 23 years of running the business and cooking for guests, she explained.
"It's a lot of hard work and you're not swimming in money at the end of it. I invested all my money in this business," she said.
About 15 workers will be displaced as a result of the closure. "I'm sad and sorry, and most of them understand," Chamberlain said.
The popular restaurant and night spot, at 2594 Depot St. (Vermont Routes 11 and 30), has been for sale for a year and is still on the market. Chamberlain is hopeful that someone will buy the business and carry it forward.
"My son's going to get his driver's license soon. He's a sophomore in high school. I don't want to miss any more hockey games or lacrosse games or soccer games. I want to be available to him," Chamberlain said. "I've spent almost half my life behind the line down there [in the kitchen]. It's time for a change."
Months ago, Chamberlain closed the downstairs formal dining room at The Perfect Wife and her catering business so she could focus on the upstairs tavern. The goal of that move was to ease staffing issues and cut back her 18-hour days to a more manageable workload. But the lack of available employees kept her from realizing a more normal schedule, and after 23 years, it was time to do something different, she said.
Chamberlain has a lot to show for that 23 years, however. A New England Culinary Institute graduate, Chamberlain opened The Perfect Wife in 1996 and was an early adapter of the farm to table movement, partnering with the Vermont Fresh Network. In 2009 she traveled to Dijon, France, to represent Vermont and the U.S. at the 4-14 Festival of Music and Food, and was named 2010 Chef of the Year by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. She also appeared on the Food Network five times, and hosted a cooking show on Greater Northshire Access Television.
The decision to close a restaurant that represents nearly half of her life was not an easy one to make, as Chamberlain recognizes she leaves behind loyal customers who have supported the business for more than two decades.
"I'm sure people are going to come up this winter and say, 'I'll met you at the Wife,' and we won't be there, and I feel terrible," Chamberlain said. "But I have to do something for me, which is take a break. I am exhausted."
"After being in business for 23 years you'd think I would be in a dress and nice shoes walking through the dining room saying hello to everybody and making sure things things are running smoothly and going home at 9:30 at night. It's not possible," she said. "The cost of things keeps going up and you can't outprice yourself, it's too competitive. Payroll costs go up continuously ... you want to give people a livable wage and in order to do that it comes right off the bottom line. "
The Perfect Wife's last day of business will be Saturday. In the meantime, Chamberlain is looking forward to a well-deserved break, and her next adventure.
"I respect all the chef-owners in this town that are still doing it and I will support them," she said. "If they need a pinch hitter I'm here. I'll put the food out if you need me to.
"But you know, I want weekends and holidays before I'm too old to enjoy them."
Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at email@example.com or at 802-490-6000.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.