GEORGETOWN — Christina Germann and Brandon Reed returned home to Brown County to build a community.
The two Ripley natives are opening a new picnic-themed restaurant on 701 Columbia St. (state Route 52) in Higginsport this April, in the same building which formerly housed the Olde Dinner Bell. The restaurant will be called Our Place at Hi-Port.
Germann, 25, who goes by Cristi, and Reed, 26, both worked in the food industry in North Carolina and had made a life for themselves after graduating from Ohio University in 2010. But when Germann answered a phone call last fall from her aunt and uncle, Nancy and Mark Herron, about an opportunity to move home and provide a service to the local community, it was a chance the young couple couldn’t turn down.
“My aunt and uncle really want to build up Higginsport again,” Germann said. “My grandfather was once the Mayor in Higginsport and the village used to have a baseball team and restaurants, and now we just have one corner store.
“So we really want to have a draw for people and have something to provide for the people that are already there, because right now you have to drive to Ripley or drive to Georgetown to get any kind of food.”
Though Germann and Reed are relatively young, they’ve worked in the restaurant business since they were old enough to even work. The couple worked together at the Cohearts Riverhouse Restaurant in Ripley during their years at Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington High School before taking separate jobs in college.
Germann opened a Waffle House franchise from scratch in North Carolina and said she did everything from cooking and cleaning to hiring to employees. “I could flip eggs like nobody else,” Germann said.
Reed, on the other hand, began as a delivery driver for Pizza Hut before moving into management there and with Domino’s Pizza.
Combining their diverse culinary backgrounds, the couple plans to offer regular restaurant food in a picnic-style atmosphere along with ever-changing specials the menu each week.
“(There will be) a lot of your basic stuff — hamburgers, steaks, that kind of thing — and then we’re going to be playing around a lot with the menu by doing pretty extreme specials every week,” Reed said.
Along with the picnic theme, Reed and Germann believe the specials can make them unique. Influenced by “down-home cooking” from his grandparents, Reed is very excited to showcase his culinary talents in creative yet tasty ways.
“The vendors have a lot of things I can play with, especially when it comes to fish,” said Reed. “On the specials, when I say they’re going to be all over the place, I mean they’re going to be all over the place. We have so many options, it’s just going to be whatever I feel like getting that week and giving it a shot.”
Due to the amount of visitors Higginsport receives in the summers, the couple wants their restaurant to be a place where campers along the Ohio River can enjoy a nice meal. The interior design will feature the classic red and white picnic-style tablecloths on the tables and sky blue walls with a wood trim.
“You don’t always want to sit outside and have a picnic,” Germann commented, “but the idea of a picnic is a nice thing.”
The theme and designs are all part of what Reed and Germann see as a “family-friendly, relaxed, and comfortable” atmosphere. And while the couple will usually be found cooking in the kitchen, Reed said that they’ll take the time to personally greet their customers. When the customers leave, Reed says, he hopes they feel that they got what they paid for. “We promised a product (to them), and they’re getting what they want.”
Even though they moved away to Athens for college and then to the Charlotte, N.C.-area for work, Germann and Reed always felt a strong pull back to Brown County. Along with the financial support of the Herrons and Germann’s parents Sandra and Leonard Germann, Germann and Reed are trying to stay as local as they can as they prepare for their opening, tentatively scheduled for the first weekend of April.
The couple plans to hire five to 10 people from the area, mostly working in front and serving the customers while Germann and Reed work in the kitchen.
“Well one of the most important aspects of the whole venture is to do as much as we can locally,” said Reed. “We’ve got the painting done locally, our (food) vendor is local, so it’s going to be local people.”
In starting a restaurant, the couple have themselves a perfect wedding present from their family. After getting married last August, Germann and Reed moved to Higginsport last December as in order to realize their dreams.
“If you’re in the restaurant business, the goal is almost always to have your own restaurant,” Germann said.
Added Reed, “A 26-year-old and a 25-year-old opening a restaurant. That’s pretty awesome.”
After working in the restaurant business for so long, both Reed and Germann know that a restaurant is about more than just putting food in front of a customer. It’s about the relationships made with those customers, and the sense of community built from the customer base and from those working at the establishment.
Germann was touched by the support and love from her Waffle House co-workers after she got married, and she hopes to build the same relations with her staff and customers in Higginsport.
“There’s a sense of community you get when you have a restaurant,” said Germann. “That’s what we really want to have here, to build a community and have a restaurant as a result.”