Tuck graduate purchases Lou's from longtime owner

by Anthony Robles | 7/13/18 2:50am

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Lou’s Bakery and Restaurant has been a longtime favorite of College students and townspeople alike.

by Anthony Robles / The Dartmouth Staff

An iconic Hanover establishment will soon be under new management for the fourth time in 71 years. Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery, which has been owned by Toby and Pattie Fried for almost three decades, has been sold to Jarett Berke Tu’17 and his wife Cailin, who moved to the area with their three children after Jarett enrolled at the Tuck School of Business.

Toby Fried said that for the next few months, his primary task at Lou’s will be to help Berke in any way he can as the restaurant changes hands. Fried added that he wants to ensure a “smooth” transition — one that customers won’t even notice.

“Every business has a learning curve,” Fried said. “And in the restaurant business, everything changes from day to day. What’s most important is to keep the customers happy, so you may have to do something different today than you had planned. You can destroy it if you don’t keep what’s important in mind.”

Lou’s, which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year, first began operations on April 11, 1947 under Lou Bressett, a Hanover native and World War II veteran. Bressett owned the South Main Street diner until 1979, when Robert Watson ’59 assumed ownership. Watson would remain in the role for the next 13 years, until he sold it to the Frieds.

Berke, a former U.S. Marine Corps captain and helicopter pilot who completed four combat deployments overseas, said that he “fell in love with the area” while at Tuck. Upon graduating, Berke said that he wanted to stay in the Upper Valley and find “someone like Toby, who was hoping to retire . . . and find someone young to run their business,” because one of his long-term goals was to own a small business.

As a student, Berke was unable to find that “someone,” and became the vice president of growth for Hanover-based Bionic Advertising Systems, a marketing and advertising-centered company, whose offices are located above the Dartmouth Bookstore across the street from Lou’s. Berke continued looking for a small business until a mutual acquaintance introduced him to Fried.

“I’ve been here hundreds of times, probably,” Berke said. “I loved Lou’s long before I knew Toby was thinking about retiring or anything like that. As I learned more about it and got into more of the details about the business . . . and how successful it is, and plus just the strength of Lou’s tradition and brand — it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Berke added that as the new owner of Lou’s, his goal is to “keep it exactly how it is,” and maintain the traditions and legacy of the restaurant. He acknowledged that Lou’s had become a symbol of tradition loved by both the local community and the Dartmouth community, which he attributed to the “great food, great people, and great service.”

“Just about everything is made right here in the back, which is pretty incredible, and that’s what people want and value,” Berke said.

“I think there may be some opportunities to grow different parts of the business — catering and selling more baked goods outside of the store, but those are all things I’m going to look at down the road.”

Since opening, Lou’s has been a Hanover mainstay, serving as a culinary destination for townspeople and college students alike due to its assorted baked goods and breakfast options. Lou’s is even the subject of its own Dartmouth challenge, which requires students to pull an all-nighter and then dine at Lou’s once it opens at 6:00 a.m.

Although renovations were made at Lou’s after Watson’s tenure as owner, especially in regard to the bakery and the menus, Fried said he was careful not to make too many changes because of the generations of alumni that return to the restaurant during class reunions and other alumni-centered events.

Lou’s cashier Morgan Young, who began working at the restaurant last summer after having grown up in the area, also shared the sentiments that many townspeople and College students and faculty hold about Lou’s.

“I come [to Lou’s] a lot with my friends,” Young said. “Lou’s means family to me. [Lou’s] means home to me.”

Fried came into the industry with an engineering background. During the early stages of his career, he said that the engineering industry was undergoing a “really shaky” period that often resulted in unemployment. Fried, who realized that he did not want to spend the rest of his life in the profession, then decided to turn his primary hobbies — baking and cooking — into his occupation.

Afterward, Fried began looking for bakeries in the Upper Valley and found an opening at Lou’s, which was owned by Watson at the time. He worked for Watson for three months, knowing that Watson was interested in selling the bakery half of the business. However, any attempts to split the business in half did not satisfy Fried, as he recognized that Watson would soon be selling Lou’s anyway.

“At that point, there was no way a new owner would honor [Watson’s] commitment to me,” Fried added. “I mean, it just wouldn’t make any sense. That’s when he offered to sell me the whole restaurant. I said yes. And everything was history after that.”

Meanwhile, Berke was actually born into the restaurant industry, as both his dad and uncles owned eateries in New York City. However, Berke said that “he wanted to get away from it” and thus decided to attend the United States Naval Academy before a decade-long career in the Marine Corps.

When Berke initially began looking at the idea of owning a business in the Upper Valley, he said that he was not very interested in the idea of owning a restaurant. That sentiment changed, however, when he realized that Lou’s was “much more than just a restaurant.” He added that what made Lou’s special was the brand, tradition and history of the establishment.

“I never really thought I’d be back in the restaurant industry, but you never know where you’re going to end up,” Berke said. “That’s just how it worked out.”

Berke said that in only his first few weeks on the job, he had entered a “different world,” one he was unaccustomed to because he has always been someone else’s employee. Berke said that as his children grow older, his wife will also be involved in the management of the restaurant.

“What I’m most excited about is just being a business owner, because it really is a totally different feeling,” Berke said. “It’s pretty awesome.”