In 2004, Joseph Watson told Greenport village officials he wanted to open a simple wine bar, and the next year Vine Cafe was in business on the northwest corner of First and South Streets. Four years later the cafe begat 1SR, which stands for First Street Restaurant.
The expansion was in response to the demand for a restaurant to complement the wine bar, Mr. Watson said. And that’s exactly why Mr. Watson put his business up for sale.
“It was never my intent to be a restaurateur,” he said. In fact, he put the business on the market practically as soon as 1SR opened.
But there was no “for sale” sign out front and real estate agents with the listing took a stealth approach to marketing it.
This spring, he placed the property with Town & Country Real Estate in Mattituck and associate broker Nicholas Planamento put the listing out on the Internet, informing sources that Vine Cafe, ISR and three second floor apartments are for sale.
“I could still be here four years from now,” Mr. Watson said. He’s in no hurry to sell and is looking for just the right buyer — someone who appreciates the ambiance he has created and believes it’s right for the village.
“I’m a city person; I miss the pace,” he said about his desire to move back to Manhattan. He came to Greenport initially as a weekender while working as an investment banker in the city. That was a job he “fell into” after college and despite the income, he realized it wasn’t creatively satisfying.
“Even the wine bar was a major challenge,” Mr. Watson said. He describes himself as “an accidental restaurateur,” explaining, “There’s nothing simple about the restaurant business.”
At the same time, he’s caught in a paradox. On one hand, he said he hasn’t had the “passion” to market the restaurant actively and that has resulted in not pushing to make it all it could be. But he clearly loves what he’s created and is reluctant to leave it to anyone but the right person.
His lack of active marketing has led to confusion about just what 1SR is, he said. Some thought it was just an extension of the wine bar offering wine and cheese and charcuterie dishes, prepared meats such as sausage and ham.
“We’re still off the radar with some people,” Mr. Watson said.
His ambivalence about being in the restaurant business is coupled with pride in the business.
“I created this place and I think it’s beautiful,” Mr. Watson said. “I’ve done the heavy lifting. I’ve worked very hard and it’s my legacy. It’s not just a space, it’s got a life and a soul to it.”
Mr. Watson has spoken to a number of potential buyers, but ultimately, none could put together the financing to buy the business that’s priced at $999,000, according to Town & Country.
Some would-be buyers talked about just renting the space from Mr. Watson. He would prefer to sell, but still seems open to the possibility of selling the restaurant, but maybe maintaining Vine Cafe.