By Mark Chag, Jr. Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, August 7, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

Since the family-owned business is nearly 40 years old, they must be doing something right.

HAMPTON — In fact, the Galley Hatch in Hampton has spread its wings over recent years, and with many expanding facets, it can easily act as a role model for other businesses looking to not only survive, but thrive, even in challenging times.

The Hampton restaurant has been open and welcoming diners since 1970, and over the past four decades the name “Galley Hatch” has become synonymous with the Seacoast, creating a loyal base from both near and afar.

What’s more, it’s no longer just “the little restaurant that could.” The Galley Hatch includes a nearby conference center in Hampton, an exquisite catering service, the Provisions fine food store, and has now branched out into the fine café business with the instantly and explosively popular Popovers in downtown Portsmouth.

In addition, the Tinios family — which has owned and operated the Galley Hatch since its humble beginnings — also owns the adjacent plaza in Hampton which undergoing a comprehensive reconstruction program as they replace the onetime cinema with an upcoming pharmacy, bank, and soon-to-be announced third tenant.

The Galley Hatch will be at the heart of it all in Hampton’s newest business plaza. With tough economic times rippling across the nation, trickling down and oozing into seemingly every corner of the business world, how does a small business like the Galley Hatch continue to expand? What is the secret to their success that others could follow?

There are many reasons why the Galley Hatch has come to be a family favorite, and why the name has gained such a prestigious reputation.

“I think what we’ve done is that we’ve stayed with our same philosophy from the very beginning,” says John Tinios, who took over for his parents who opened the Galley Hatch, and has been on board for 25 years. “From the beginning we have always bought the best product and tried to serve the best food, and we have a great staff and take care of the customers.”

When discussing the Galley Hatch and all of the business branches, Tinios is always quick to praise the team of employees — and is proud of the many talents he has brought on board.

SERVICE WITH A SMILE! — Selena and the friendly staff are just part of the positive experience of dining at the Galley Hatch. They also have yummy pastries, great appetizers, an excellent menu, and a relaxing lounge.
[Atlantic News Photos by Mark Chag, Jr.]

One such talent is Stephen James, a Master Baker and Managing Partner of Popovers.

Tinios first saw a niche that needed to be filled in downtown Portsmouth years ago, while looking for a good place to enjoy lunch with his children. He saw the way Portsmouth was attracting a sort of European atmosphere, with its outdoor eateries and social atmosphere. He envisioned a fine bakery and delicatessen, and needed the perfect person at the helm of it all.

He found that in James, who was then the executive baker at the world-renown Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch. James is the brainchild behind Popovers and its scrumptious menu, and brought many of his polished staff along with him to open the Portsmouth hotspot three years ago.

Today, Popovers is one of the biggest draws in the downtown area, and was ranked by one elite group who traveled the world over in search of good coffee, as having one of the top five brews anywhere on the planet.

“He really put that team together. He deserves all the credit,” Tinios says in praise of James.

In addition to James, Tinios says all of his employees, many of whom have worked for the family for years, are what makes the business so successful.

“We’ve got a team of amazing people here — a kind of team that, in the Seacoast, I don’t think anybody can match. They’re very talented people,” he says.

In recent years, the family added catering to the list of services offered and now is one of the Seacoast’s premier full-service caterers for weddings corporate and social events of any size — and have served as many as 1,400 people in a single outing.

What’s more, the Galley Hatch Conference Center at 815 Lafayette Road in Hampton offers state-of-the-art services for any occasion, with its large ballroom, sunny foyer, and of course the finest catered cuisine available through their own catering company.

“Conglomerates,” as Tinios calls them, have approached both the Galley Hatch and Popovers individually on occasion and offered buyouts — but have been turned away. Tinios is keeping the family business, well, in the family.

He still welcomes his mother, whom all the staff affectionately call Kay, when she visits the Galley Hatch occasionally to the delight of everyone. Now an octogenarian, she pays the visits to see how the little restaurant she started nearly 40 years ago is thriving in legendary proportions today.

“She’s a true matriarch for everyone here,” James says. “Up until four years ago she was still working here on a regular basis,” Tinios says with a chuckle, adding it was her love for it all that kept her coming back.

“Love,” in fact, is yet another secret to success for the Galley Hatch and partner divisions.

“When the economy drops as it has, it naturally weeds out a lot of establishments if there are too many restaurants,” Tinios says. “Even as tough and as competitive as the business has become, you have to enjoy it to succeed. Whatever we do here, we have fun doing it. That’s the winning combination. If you don’t love this business, absolutely love it, you should never get into it.”

As for the future, Tinios says he focuses more on “the now,” acknowledging that while Popovers has extreme potential for additional locations, he’d rather concentrate on keeping a happy, eclectic staff surrounding him.

When the staff is happy, he explains, the customers are happy, and with that goal in mind, the Galley Hatch and all within it will stride toward the future together.