When Sean Wansor went all in by opening last year, the Irish pub and brew house that occupies the same location on Pleasant Valley Road that was once home to John Harvard's, his new business venture came with no guarantee of success.
Especially since that area around the mall is already glutted with a number of popular chain restaurants, and even though Wansor has spent a number of years helping other businesses within the food and beverage industry expand and make acquisitions, he has never run a restaurant of his own.
But a year later Wansor says the venture has been a success and that Tullycross continues to become more and more popular with patrons in the Manchester area and around. With a planned for Saturday, and a number of exciting expansion plans and menu adjustments scheduled for the rest of the year, we thought now would be the ideal time to talk to Wansor about his business and kick off our Small Business Spotlight series.
Manchester Patch: So, Sean, a year in, how would you say things are going at ?
Sean Wansor: The first year has definitely been a roller coaster, but we've finally started to create our character, so to speak. We're creating a brand from scratch, and when you do that you have to make sure you have the right people in place.
Manchester Patch: Sean, there's a lot of restaurants in that area of Manchester up by the mall, so what sets your restaurant apart from all the rest?
Sean Wansor: All of our food is made from scratch. Our beer is hand-crafted, that's the big difference to me. People that want to take a pause from reality and come to a place that they're allowed to let their hair down, so to speak, and enjoy a good pint of beer and a good entree. People seem to enjoy the quality of our food. Even though we don't have a selection like a Cheesecake Factory, we still have enough to offer that a family is satisfied. I'd say we're a good alternate to the chains – we're an independent."
A tavern is a place where people can gather and not just eat, but go back to the basics, and that's what we're trying to do. We're a little different, and we want to offer people the back to basics mentality. And I think people find comfort in the back to basics mentality in this world. We have a good tagline. The tagline is" "Good Food. Good Drink. Good Stories."
Manchester Patch: You mentioned this was your first restaurant venture, after years spent working in the construction, real estate and acquisitions industries, so what made you pick Manchester? And were you at all worried about all the "competition" surrounding you with all the chain restaurants up by the mall?
Sean Wansor: My business generally takes me up and down 84 all the time. I'm very familiar with the area. I was involved with the previous owners for a number of years, and the opportunity came and I seized it because I liked Manchester and I like the area.
In the world of all these chain restaurants, I though it was a good opportunity to provide local customers with a choice that was local. People like to see the underdog win. I'm definitely going against the trend, so to speak, but you've got to offer people a reason to come to your place over anywhere else. And the differential is we brew our own beer. The difference in quality of that alone is superb compared to all other places in the area. I think you've got to be a little crazy to do something like this, and I'm a little crazy - I'm a crazy entrepreneur.
Manchester Patch: I have to admit that the name Tullycross is pretty unique, and one I don't think I've ever heard before attached to a bar. What's the story behind the name?
Sean Wansor: The name actually comes from my father. His name was Tully. Tullycross is a small town in Ireland that I can trace my father's roots to, and Tully was my father's middle name, and since I was partners with him for so long and I always called him Tully during business meetings, I decided to name the place in honor of my father.
Manchester Patch: Sean, Tullycross' menu leans heavily on Irish classics, but I wouldn't define your menu as strictly "Irish food." How did you go about crafting your menu, and why might it appeal to a wide variety of dinners?
Sean Wansor: If we made the menu 100 percent Irish, that would really reduce our target market, and we can't build on that. A little Irish flare and comfort food, that's sort of the inspiration. People can get a good steak, they can get a good sea food dish, and they can find their comfort. That's what we want to offer.
Plus we change our menu three or four times a year with the seasons, and that's anoter benefit of being locally owned. We're independent, so we get to change our menu. We don't have to worry about rolling it out for 100 different units across the country at the same time.
Manchester Patch: It all sounds good, Sean. So what do you have planned for Tullycross in Year Two?
Sean Wansor: We're defining who we are, so little by little we're changing some of the decor of the place and the character. But I think the biggest change that people are going to see is this summer we are going to have an outdoor patio that can fit about 40 to 50 people. In the fall we're going to expand the tavern area and make it feel more like a tavern where more parties can come together and chat and enjoy good food and beer.
I think that's the biggest thing, for me. I want people, when they walk out of the restaurant, to feel that their hard-earned dollars were appreciate. Servers, the management, pretty much everyone enjoys what they do here. I love getting customers feedback. I love getting the guests feedback. I love listening to staff and customers ideas of how to better ourselves.
Do you have a local business in Manchester that you want spotlighted in a future column? First, on Manchester Patch, then contact Manchester Editor David Moran.