Rindge Chamber names Woodbound Inn, Hometown Diner owner Businessman of the Year

  • Rudy Rosalez, owner of the Hometown Diner and Woodbound Inn in Rindge, has been named Businessperson of the Year by the Rindge Chamber of Commerce. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Rudy Rosalez, owner of the Hometown Diner and Woodbound Inn in Rindge, has been named Businessperson of the Year by the Rindge Chamber of Commerce. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/25/2021 4:19:08 PM

Rudy Rosalez, owner of the Woodbound Inn and Hometown Diner, has been named Businessperson of the Year by the Rindge Chamber of Commerce, for his creative solutions and dedication to keeping business going during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rosalez, who has been running the Woodbound Inn for eight years now and acquired the Hometown Diner this year when it shut down amidst COVID-19, said it’s not been an easy year.

“In the beginning, it was scary, of course,” Rosalez said. “I just didn’t have any option but to keep moving forward.”

The Businessperson of the Year is voted on at the Chamber of Commerce by previous year’s winners. Chamber of Commerce President Lynda Hunt said that Rosalez was the resounding winner for his dedication to the community, creativity during a tough economic time, and his decision to purchase and keep open the Hometown Diner, which has become a staple of the town gateway.

“When we were talking about people nominated, one point that kept coming up was how creative he was, and a leader for the restaurant business in the area. He didn’t give up or close down, but tried different avenues to keep these restaurants going,” Hunt said.

Rosalez, who is the owner/chef at the Woodbound Inn, only had that business to contend with in March, at the start of the pandemic, and leapt to creative options, such as virtual take-out orders, and when the weather warmed enough, transformed part of the parking lot and front lawn into outdoor dining and live music.

“I went for it, and the gamble paid off, and let us keep up,” Rosalez said. “We had some really good advantages over restaurants in strip malls, for example, because we have this really beautiful, out-of-the-way property. Things that in the past were a challenge – that we’re out-of-the-way and hard to find – became an advantage, as people began looking for something like that.”

Rosalez said when he heard that the Hometown Diner was shutting down this summer, he didn’t want to see it closed for long. He said the business was being put into place when he first moved into town, and he’d always been a little jealous of its great placement at the intersection of Route 202 and 119. When the opportunity came, he said he wanted to keep the diner open.

“When they closed, the employees went with it, some of whom had been there the whole time it was open,” Rosalez said. He said he didn’t want to see that happen, but was also attracted to the future prospects of the diner, which he said had been a popular, profitable business before COVID-19. “Was it a business decision? Absolutely. They would be in a really good position to shine after everything settled down.”

He admits that this year “isn’t about making profits,” but trying to get everyone through.

Rosalez began offering an outdoor barbecue and live music events to help draw an outdoor crowd to the diner.

“We were the escape, we were bringing something to the community that everyone wanted, while also doing our due diligence to make sure everyone was safe,” Rosalez said.

Rosalez said things haven’t been entirely rosy this year. As winter closed in, and outdoor dining shut down, both businesses were hit hard, and some employees had to be temporarily furloughed, and he maxed out his own credit cards trying to keep things afloat.

“December was scary. Once December came, our businesses took a nosedive. I didn’t know if we were going to be able to stay open,” he said. But as spring approaches, and with a new round of business protection loans and stimulus checks expected, and the vaccine rollout underway, Rosalez said he’s looking forward to a packed 2021, when a lot of events originally scheduled for last year are expected to be back underway.

“I brushed those things away, because this is my life, and I have to keep moving, set the pace and be the example. My staff and management have been phenomenal,” Rosalez said.

The Chamber of Commerce also named, for the second time in its history, a nonprofit of the year. This year, the Rindge Woman’s Club claimed the honor.

The Woman’s Club sponsors several local programs, including Operation Santa, Rindge’s Earth Day celebrations and roadside cleanups, the Mother’s Garden at Cathedral of the Pines, and makes charitable donations to several Rindge community organizations, particularly those aimed at children and the local police, fire and veterans associations.

“They’re all over the com munity,” Hunt said. “They’re so entwined  with the business community. Every where you look, the Woman’s Club is there doing it. They’re always there. We just felt they were really one of the most intertwining nonprofits, that really got involved in the community.”

Both Rosalez and the Rindge Woman’s Club are expected to be honored in a small ceremony at the Woodbound Inn on Tuesday.


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