Big River Restaurant and Bar, 101, and Big River Breads
ADDRESS: 101 NW Jackson Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97330
PHONE NUMBER: 541-757-0694
WEBSITES: www.bigriverrest.com, www.101atbigriver.com
OWNERS: Brant and Carol Pollard
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 17
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Fabulous food and drink featuring fresh local ingredients and outstanding service
Our Business of the Week is actually three local business ventures in one. The Big River restaurant offers an incredible array of eclectic, fresh northwest cuisine that features the best of our seasonal bounty in the Willamette Valley and beyond. 101 is a great place to get an ice-cold brew or a refreshing cocktail and a small plate before or after a night out on the town. Big River Breads produces fresh Italian style breads with a variety of international flavors baked daily right in the restaurant, and featured both at the restaurant and at your favorite grocers around town.
Brant, how did you get started? I’ve been with the restaurant since its inception and became the General Manager with the original partnership that established the restaurant and then became a partner when one of the original partners moved on. Then just about five years ago my wife, Carol, and I, became the sole owners of Big River. I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 15, starting out by washing dishes and waiting tables. I also attended OSU and have been in Corvallis since 1986.
How many people work at Big River, Big River Breads and 101? We started out with around 40 employees and now have 80 on staff.
What are your specialties? One of our primary specialties are the wonderful desserts that are all made here by our creative and versatile pastry chef, Loretta Verdugo. Another specialty are the fresh breads, which were so popular from the beginning that we branched out to doing wholesale bakery work and now you can find them all around town at your favorite grocers. Our very first customer was the south store of First Alternative, and I delivered the bread myself in the back of my car.
Do you fill an unusual niche? We definitely did when we first opened the restaurant. We pioneered using as much local produce and product as possible and having a seasonally changing menu. Big River is a dedicated supporter of the local farms and providers that are our neighbors and friends. That business model has certainly become more popular over the years. At Big River and 101 you can find choices that are as healthy as you could want and then others that are as indulgent as you want to be.
How important is sustainability to you and your business? It’s very important. We have always recycled as much as we can. Our leftover food is donated and our leftover bread goes to local shelters and duck farmers in the area. To reduce our ecological footprint, Big River strives to use only food sourced directly from the Willamette Valley. We support many of the valley’s hard working farmers, ranchers and foragers. We were proud to have been written about by the White House Business Council in December of 2011, highlighting the opportunities and successes we’ve had here in Corvallis.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? Having to do it all yourself. Being the marketing coordinators, accountants, managers, wait staff and taking on every role at one time or another to make the business work.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started/bought your business? There are a ton of little things I have learned over the years that if I had known at the start, it would have been a great help. One thing that stands out is our current economic times. All recessions are inevitable; however the 2008 downturn had huge negative impacts in all industries. If I could have seen the magnitude of this past recession, I would have made adjustments before, not chased it.
(Interview and article by Cindee Lolik)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally-owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance.