Surviving winter: A business adventure

Year-round business: The Junction owners, Charles and Tanya Triber, say they owe it to their customers to keep things humming in the sometimes slower winter months. Photo courtesy of Mountain BizWorks

When you brave the winter cold for dinner on a Friday night — especially in those lulls around the holidays — you don’t expect to find much of a crowd.  This wasn’t the case, however, on a recent evening at The Junction, located on Depot Street in the River Arts District. Despite the winter chill and post-holiday season, the restaurant was full and lively.

How do owners Charles and Tanya Triber account for that? The couple are entering their second winter as restauranteurs, and note that they are learning how to steer the business through the slower months. While some local restaurants choose to hibernate by limiting their hours or closing altogether, the Tribers are driven to meet their customers’ expectations. As Charles says, “Sometimes it’s harder to stay here through winter than to just shut your doors and wait for the season to change. But we can’t do that to our guests. We really owe it to them to be here.”

While that sentiment might be warm and fuzzy, it isn’t always easy. Nestled among mostly artist spaces, the only time The Junction sees much foot traffic is during art shows or gallery walks. The rest of the time, the restaurant is a destination location and depends on returning locals or adventurous tourists.

So how do they manage when the temperature drops? Tanya replies: “We are hyper-vigilant about scheduling employee hours, thinking through new products, pricing carefully and avoiding waste. We are always projecting cash flow.” She adds, “And we make sure we have reserves and access to capital going into the slower season.”

For this financial component, they rely on their ongoing lending relationship with Mountain BizWorks, which has provided them with a line of credit that provides a cushion for the slower times.

The Tribers also take advantage of the slower months as a time to regroup. “Something about the pace of winter allows you to step back and reflect on the year and plan for what’s ahead,” says Tanya. “You have to be willing to look at what works, what doesn’t work — and then have the courage to make changes as needed.”

While Tanya actually enjoys this process, it’s more challenging for Charles. “For me, winter is hard. I would much rather be busy and keep driving forward than to stop and look back,” he says.

But it’s this balance that keeps The Junction humming along. Tanya helps to ground Charles’ ambition. “At first you’re so caught up in just making the business run that you can forget what’s going on outside of the business,” says Charles. “I attribute so much of my ability to focus on what’s going on in the community to Tanya, who really helped me see the value in that. It’s important to us that our guests feel like they’re old friends.”

Tanya adds that Charles has a natural way of connecting with clientele that keeps them coming back. “One of the greatest joys for me,” she says, “is to see someone at table number 18 recognize the people at table number 11 and strike up a conversation. It’s the realization for me of the intention we had when we opened The Junction.”

The Tribers met in Portland a decade ago — Charles working in the food-service industry and Tanya as an independent writer. They landed in Asheville in 2004; Charles got a job at Rezaz in Biltmore Village and worked there for six years. From the beginning, they both had their eyes on the River Arts District. “It reminded us a lot of Portland,” says Tanya, “and we never could figure out why it wasn’t more developed.”

After a few years of planning, they opened The Junction in May 2011 and haven’t looked back. Tanya says, “The other night a diner was saying to me, ‘You all kind of went out on a limb down here.’” Her response? “Yep, and we’re still here!”

The couple recognizes that the success of their business is tied to the local support system. “There are so many people here who have to make their own work,” says Tanya. “The wonderful thing is the willingness to share advice, listen and collaborate.” Charles adds that this is unlike the competitive environments he’s experienced before. “We partner with so many local business owners. They dine in our restaurant, and we frequent their establishments as well.”

And it’s this community that they’re trusting to sustain them through the winter — until lengthier, warmer days return.

The Junction is located at 348 Depot Street in the River Arts District. For more information, visit thejunctionasheville.com or call 225-3497.

Jennie Ramsey is loan administrative assistant at Mountain BizWorks. To learn about small business loans from Mountain BizWorks, contact her at jennie@mountainbizworks.org or 253-2834, ext. 11.

Mountain BizWorks supports small businesses in Western North Carolina through lending, consulting and training. For more information, visit mountainbizworks.org.

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