Bistro at Holiday Bay: Opera and Old Lace
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Shelby was at loose ends once she'd settled the estate since she'd been working long hours her entire life and wasn't used to so much down time. When she found out a hangout down by the commercial fishing dock was for sale, she decided to take a chance and invest in her future.
The Bistro, which consists of a restaurant, bar, rooftop patio, and live music platform, was exactly the sort of thing Shelby needed to find her footing in Holiday Bay. She knows she'll need help, so she enlists the help of new chef and frequent guest to The Inn at Holiday Bay, Amy Hogan, as well as parttime waitress and longtime local Nikki Peyton. Together with the staff and regular customers that appeared to have come with the place, Shelby is certain she'll be able to create something special.
In book 1 in the series, Shelby decides to clean out the second floor of the building which had been used by the previous owner as a storage area. While clearing out the large dusty space she finds a stack of boxes with so much dust on them that she is certain that they'd been there for decades. Shelby opens to boxes and finds items left behind from the owner of the garment factory that had utilized the space half a century ago. During the course of sifting through the old treasures, Shelby finds a journal that appeared to have been left behind by a man who lived in the area in the nineteen sixties and seventies.
Upon examination, Shelby determines that the journal features pages and pages of code, which she suspects, if decoded, will reveal a secret message. The man who left the journal is long dead, so Shelby enlists the help of her staff, customers, local friends, and the ex-cop turned PI who uses a booth in the bar to meet customers, to help her solve the mystery.
Join Shelby, Amy, Nikki, and a lineup of new as well as familiar characters, as they try to solve what, to that point, had been the cold case of the century.
Release date: July 26, 2022
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 184
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Bistro at Holiday Bay: Opera and Old Lace
I turned from where I was standing along the rooftop railing of the oceanfront bar and restaurant I’d recently purchased to greet the friendly-looking man with wavy blond hair and a sunny smile. “I’m Shelby Morris. You must be Donovan Ford.”
He nodded. Stepping forward and holding out a hand, he greeted me. “Yes, ma’am. This is a beautiful spot you have here.”
“It really is,” I agreed. “Lonnie said you’d be by today, but for some reason, I was expecting you this afternoon.” Lonnie Parker was a contractor and a good friend who’d recommended Donovan when I’d mentioned that, while I had a lot of ideas for refreshing the building I’d recently purchased, I felt I needed help pulling everything together.
“I was meeting with another potential client a few miles north of here when I realized that it made more sense to stop by while I was already in the area.” He moved next to me, and we both turned to look out over the deep blue sea. The sun was high in the sky, sending the thermostat upward, although a gentle breeze from the north made the rooftop haven tolerable.
“I guess that makes sense, and it’s fine that you’re here now,” I eventually answered. “I’m anxious to corral the ideas I’ve had stomping around my mind into something tangible. I’ve spoken to Lonnie about doing the actual construction once I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish with this remodel, but the more we’ve chatted about possibilities, the more confused I’ve become. He recommended that I hire an architect. I shared my goal of blending my ideas with the old-world charm that currently exists with him, and he recommended you.”
“I’m grateful he did,” he answered with a slight drawl that I couldn’t quite place. “Lonnie is a good guy and one of the best contractors in the area. We’ve worked together several times in the past.” He paused and looked around. “This old building has a lot of character, and, as I said when I first arrived, the view from this rooftop is unrivaled.”
I paused to look out over the rocky shoreline to the east, the calm and serene ocean to the south, and the commercial fishing marina to the west. “It does feel like my own little piece of heaven.” I took in a deep breath of sweet, salty air.
He turned and looked in my direction. “Tell me a bit about yourself.”
“You want to know about me?”
“It might not seem that knowing about your past or understanding why you decided to buy a bar and restaurant in the first place would help me to come up with the perfect design, but experience has shown that the better I know a client, the better job I’m able to do for them.”
“Okay. As for my past, I grew up in South Carolina, but I also spent time in North Carolina. A year and a half ago, I, along with my two half-sisters, inherited a house, cash, and a large plot of land from our grandmother, so I decided to move to Holiday Bay. Prior to moving here, I worked days in a diner and nights in a nightclub.”
“And has it always been your lifelong dream to own a bar and restaurant?”
I laughed. “Not at all. In the back of my mind, I’ve always considered working in bars, clubs, and diners as a means to an end, the end being timely payment of my bills. I really never considered having my own business, and I certainly never entertained the idea of owning a bar and restaurant.”
“So why did you buy the Bistro at Holiday Bay?”
I hesitated. I had to admit that I’d asked myself that exact question on more than one occasion over the past couple of months. “To be honest, nothing about my journey to this point was planned, but I guess I felt at loose ends and was looking for a project. When I heard that Dory Coverston might want to sell the Bistro, I decided to look into it.” While I didn’t say as much to the man I’d just met, the reality was that I’d bought the building and the business housed within on a bit of a whim. My boyfriend of three years had just left town in order to pursue his dream job in California, and while I was happy for Scot, his absence left me feeling ungrounded and in need of a purpose. I had the cash from my inheritance that was just sitting in the bank gathering dust, so when I found out that the Bistro was for sale, I jumped right in and bought the place.
“Are you a chef?”
I laughed once again. “No. Grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly on toast are about the extent of my culinary skills, but I have a close friend who was looking for a kitchen to call her own, so we teamed up.” I referred to my good friend and business partner, Amy Hogan. “I love this place. While I love the view, the history, the staff, and the customers, I will admit to being in over my head just a bit.” I blew out a breath. “I’ve honestly given more thought to buying a pair of shoes than I put into my decision to buy this building, but now that she’s mine, I find that I’m itching to put my own mark on her.”
Donovan leaned his elbows on the railing that provided a safety barrier around the entire roof without obstructing the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view. The myriad of expressions filtering across his face told me he was deep in thought, but he didn’t speak, so I simply settled in and waited for him to process whatever it was that he was trying to process. Eventually, he spoke. “There really is something special about this building, and, as we’ve both stated, the location is priceless.” He turned and looked toward the wharf, and then he turned in a full circle as if trying to get a feel for the area as a whole. “I can picture folks gathering here on the rooftop to enjoy a local ale or frosty margarita while the fishing vessels file into the harbor at the end of the day. I can almost hear the gulls as they circle overhead, waiting for scraps from the day’s haul as the boats are unloaded. Seals and sea lions will line up on the dock, and the gentle breeze will blow in from the sea.”
I smiled. “I see you share my vision. I’ve pretty much decided that a rooftop dining area will be a must, but I can’t decide whether to simply reinforce the barrier around the roof and then place a few tables with umbrellas and chairs or go all out and create a seaside oasis.”
He paused as if taking his time to let things settle in his mind before continuing. “Why don’t you start by sharing your overall vision for the place; for the entire building, not just the rooftop.”
“Okay.” I took a breath and then answered Donovan’s question. “I know that I want to maintain the same feel throughout. The distressed brick, dark gray stone, hardwood floors, and large picture windows found on the first and second floor tell a story.” I tucked a lock of my dark red hair behind an ear. “I want to keep the open beams and high ceilings designed to accommodate the seafood processing plant initially erected on this plot of land. I also want to leave the hardwood floors I’ve been told were added by the garment factory’s owner who utilized the space in the mid-sixties through the mid-eighties.” I looked down at the dark-colored cement beneath my feet. “The building needs some TLC, but it has good bones. It has a lifeforce and a history that I want to honor as I move forward. Having said that, I want to put my own mark on the place, but I want to accomplish this without erasing the marks left by those who came before me.”
He smiled, his eyes dancing with what looked to be joy or maybe anticipation. “I agree with everything you’ve just said. Let’s begin with a tour of the entire building. I came straight up to the roof after arriving, and since I’m currently transitioning from Houston to Coastal Maine, I’m not as familiar with the area as I’d like to be and today’s the first time I’ve been in this building.”
Ah, Houston. The slight drawl I couldn’t quite pin down. “Okay,” I said, opening my arms and turning around in a circle. “We’ll start at the top and work our way down. As I’ve already mentioned, my overall vision for this space is rooftop dining with a view that can’t be matched. The image in my head is similar to what you’ve just shared, where guests will gather to share a meal or a beverage as they watch the fishing boats file in at the end of the day.” I paused, looked around, and then continued. “Initially, I had a vision of an outdoor fireplace on a large rock wall with lounge seating and comfortable sofas lining the railing overlooking the sea. But I want to leave the view unobstructed, and the sort of fireplace I’ve been envisioning would require a large rock wall.” I took a breath. “And while the sofa and lounge seating sound comfy, they aren’t the best choice if meals will be served, which brings me to the logistics of delivering food from the first-floor kitchen to the roof, as well as the overall feasibility of the cost to convert the space given the seasonal restrictions.”
He took a minute and then replied. “Okay. So you want to maintain the feel of distressed brick, gray stone, hardwood, and unobstructed views. I agree that a huge fireplace would be nice, but it would be a shame to obstruct the view, so I’m going to suggest square or even round firepit tables with a flat surface that would accommodate food and beverages. Gas firepits will be easy to maintain, and they would provide both warmth and atmosphere. If you replace the roof railing with clear plexiglass five or six feet in height, the view will remain unobstructed, and you’ll have a barrier to the wind as well. Scatter a few outdoor heaters around the place, and the patio will be suitable for all but the snowiest winter months.”
I smiled. “I like this so far. Maybe I could still create a conversation area with sofas and a larger firepit table in one corner. Small groups who are here to watch the boats come in and want a beverage but not necessarily a meal could gather there.”
“That sounds like an excellent compromise. I recently designed an outdoor space where the owner wanted to use natural stones. I found a dealer in Rhode Island who has firepit tables in a variety of shapes and sizes made from stone squares that can be removed and stacked for storage. My customer went with brown stones, but I’m pretty sure I remember seeing that they had gray.”
“Okay, still liking this. Go on.”
“If you want to bring some brick to the party, I’m going to suggest a few brick planter boxes arranged in such a way as to naturally divide the space without interrupting the flow. There are pros and cons to this idea, which we can discuss further, but I like the idea of utilizing both the gray stone and brick out here, and bright colored flowers in the summer and shrubs with seasonal color in the fall would provide the feel of a rooftop garden.”
“I like that idea. What about the issue of food delivery from the first floor?”
He glanced at the door leading to the staircase leading down to the first and second floors. “Let’s take a look at how it’s laid out now.”
We headed toward the door and took the stairs down to the second floor. At this point, the second floor consisted of an office and a large, cluttered storage area.
“There’s a lot of underutilized space up here,” Donovan commented.
“I agree. It will take someone months to clear out all the clutter, but it has occurred to me that once the storage space has been organized, I’m going to have a couple of thousand square feet of space to do something with.”
“Let’s take a look at the main floor. I came in through the front door, but a nice young woman named Kennedy showed me directly to the stairs, so I didn’t have a chance to really look around.”
The first floor was laid out so that customers came in through the door from the street to encounter a counter with a cash register. Behind the counter was a wall, which was utilized by the kitchen. To the right of the cash register was the dining area, where windows looked out at the street. There was a single large window that took advantage of the ocean view, but the kitchen ran along the entire back wall of the Bistro, blocking the majority of the spectacular panorama.
To the left of the cash register was the bar area, which provided seating at a long L-shaped bar as well as a variety of booths and round tables with chairs. In the back of the room, an area was set up for live entertainment that included a stage, piano, and microphone.
“Overall, I love the space,” Donovan said. “The hardwood floors are gorgeous, and as we’ve discussed, the dark stone and distressed brick add an element to the place that just feels right. It is unfortunate that the kitchen is located at the rear of the building. While necessary, it blocks so much of the view.”
“I agree. The brick fireplace and live plants make the place feel welcoming and cozy, but the loss of the view really is a shame.”
“Have you considered moving the kitchen and opening up this entire floor?” Donovan asked.
“Moving the kitchen. Move it where?”
“The second floor, actually.”
“Hear me out.”
“Currently, the first floor is divided into separate spaces. The bar is separated from the dining area because the kitchen is situated between the two seating areas. I’m sure there are times when a degree of separation is a good thing, but I’m equally certain we can come up with a way to mitigate the noisier atmosphere one might experience in the bar without dividing the space in such a way that causes the loss of the view.”
He paused, but when I didn’t respond, he continued.
“If the kitchen was moved to the second floor, you could remove the walls that currently exist and use the space on the seaside of the building for additional seating. The windows looking out over the bay on the first floor are mostly covered with interior walls and commercial appliances. I’m going to suggest a much smaller prepping station on the parking lot side of the first floor that can be utilized by the waitstaff to assemble beverage orders and make salads, toast, and other side items not created in the kitchen. The major appliances will be moved to the second story of the building where the hot food will be prepared.”
I really liked the idea of opening up the first floor and exposing the ocean view windows that were currently inaccessible due to the presence of the kitchen, but putting the kitchen on the second floor would require the waitstaff to do a lot of running up and down stairs. If we added rooftop dining, which would be utilized for three-quarters of the year, then having the kitchen on the floor between the two spaces would make sense. “What are your ideas for transporting food between the kitchen and the dining areas on the first floor and rooftop?” I asked.
“An elevator would be one option, but a dumbwaiter might make more sense.”
“Dumbwaiter?” I asked.
He nodded. “As I mentioned, while the main cooking area would be moved to the second floor, there would be a small staging area on the parking lot side of the first floor where the waitstaff can gather coffee and soft drinks, prepare salads and other side dishes, and organize their food deliveries. A modern commercial-grade dumbwaiter system would allow the kitchen to send hot food directly down to the waitstaff on the first floor without anyone needing to run up and down stairs. In fact, the dumbwaiter could serve the rooftop as well, although we’ll need to build a service area on the roof.”
I found that I liked a lot of the ideas that Donovan presented, but moving the kitchen seemed like it would be a major undertaking. I’d need to discuss the idea with Amy, who ran the kitchen and might very well have some pretty specific ideas about the feasibility of the whole thing. I also wanted to run the idea of opening up the first floor past my dining room manager, Kennedy Swanson, and my bar manager, Dawson Westwood. In theory, having a space with an open flow between the bar side and the dining side made sense, but doing so might create issues that didn’t exist currently.
“Will we need to use the entire second floor for the kitchen, or will there still be space for an office and storage?”
He shrugged. “I guess that’s up to you. The kitchen can be as simple or elaborate as you decide it needs to be. I’ve never eaten here, so I’m unsure about the menu or the type of cooking that you do.”
“We open for lunch and serve soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers. We switch to a dinner menu at five. We offer a selection of regular menu items in addition to a special salad, soup, and entrée each evening.”
“If your plan is to continue as you are rather than expanding your menu, then I think a kitchen the size of the one currently being utilized would be fine. You might want to have a conversation with your chef before we design the space. I’m happy to meet with both of you so we can come up with a plan that meets everyone’s needs.”
I thanked Donovan and assured him that I’d discuss his ideas with my staff and get back to him. I’d acted on impulse when I’d bought the building, but I wanted to take my time when it came to the remodel. Adding a dining area on the roof sounded like a relatively simple idea, but moving the kitchen and then removing the interior walls that had been built to accommodate the kitchen sounded like a major project that would require us to be closed for at least a short period of time. I was just getting started as the new owner, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that.
After Donovan left, I headed to the kitchen to find Amy. It was quiet at the moment, so she agreed to take a break and let her sous chef take over.
“So, what did you think?” Amy asked after we settled into the office with cups of coffee.
“The man had a lot of good ideas. He seemed to understand my desire to seamlessly merge my vision with what already exists, and I really like his plan for the roof.” I described the idea of tables of varying shapes and sizes with a gas fire feature and the plexiglass walls that would act as a windbreak while maintaining the view and creating a three-season space. I shared the idea of planter boxes made from distressed brick and portable heaters that could be rolled out as needed. Amy seemed to really like all these ideas, but when I got to the part about moving the kitchen, she seemed a bit less sure.
“Adding additional seating to the dining room does make sense,” she said after she paused to think things over for a minute or two. “And opening up the back wall with all the large windows would add a lot to the space. The view would improve tenfold, and it would make the area brighter. At times, especially in the winter, the bar can get pretty dark.”
“What about the idea of the dumbwaiter?” I asked.
She shrugged. “I worked in a few restaurants in Europe that used a similar system. The buildings there tend to be tall and narrow, so it’s not unusual for the kitchen to be on a different level than the dining area. I imagine there would be a learning curve with our current waitstaff, but I think it would work just fine. The way it is when an order is up now, we put the food in the window and ring a bell. If we used a dumbwaiter, we’d just put the food in the dumbwaiter rather than in the window. The food would be transported to the dining area and removed from the dumbwaiter by the waitstaff, who would add the garnish the way they do now. I don’t see it being a problem, and it does actually answer the concern you have about rooftop dining if we have the system service all three floors.”
“And moving everything from the main floor to the second floor?”
“We’d need to hire a crew,” she answered. “I wouldn’t do it now. It’s slow in the winter, so perhaps we should wait and do it after the holidays since we’ll need to be closed for at least a few weeks. It makes the most sense to me to wait on all of this until we get settled, but if you’re itching to make changes right away, then I think we should start with the roof. We need to clear out the second floor before we can even begin to consider moving the kitchen up here, and based on the sheer volume of what is stashed up here, I suspect the chore will take months and months to accomplish.”
“I agree. There is a lot up here. I think I’ll go ahead and have Donovan create some drawings of the rooftop with space designated for a staging area, and we’ll just start there. You and I can work on clearing out the second floor, and once we get all of that done, we can think about a remodel on the first floor at some point in the future.”
Amy had to get back to the kitchen, so I called Donovan and told him what we were thinking. He agreed to have rooftop sketches for us to consider in the next week or two. I’d just hung up with Donovan and was about to call Lonnie when Hennessy, the cat I’d inherited when I bought the Bistro, wandered into the room.
“Hey, big guy. What are you doing up here during the day?” While Hennessy had his own room set up on the second floor, he preferred to be downstairs when there were people around.
I bent over and picked him up after he’d wandered over to me. I’d never had a cat before I’d inherited Hennessy, but I had to admit I enjoyed his calming presence in my life. “I imagine you heard me talking to the man about the remodel and wanted to come up to see if your room was still here.”
He began to purr. When Dory owned the Bistro, Hennessy lived in the building full-time, but since I’d inherited the cat, I’d been taking him home with me at the end of each day.
“I want you to know that you don’t need to worry. If we do decide to move the kitchen up to the second floor, I’ll make sure you have your own space here in my office.”
The cat purred louder.
“And we might not even do the remodel,” I continued thinking aloud. “There’s a lot to consider. Not only will the project put a dent in my dwindling savings, but the floor-to-ceiling items that have been discarded and stashed up here will need to be relocated before we can even begin.”
“Yes, it would be a good idea to clear out this space regardless of what we decide to do or not do with the space.” I thought about the decades’ worth of items that had been left behind by prior business owners. “Perhaps we should look at exactly what we have to deal with,” I suggested to the cat.
It appeared he agreed since he jumped down off my lap and headed toward the door.
The area being used for storage made up about three-quarters of the building’s second floor. I suspected it hadn’t always been that way. I’d seen photos of the building when it had been used as both a seafood processing plant and a garment factory, and based on those photos, it seemed as if the majority of the space on both floors had been utilized for production. Still, this mess hadn’t accumulated overnight, so I imagined the business owners began stacking their own discarded items up here at some point.
I stood at the front of the large area currently being used for storage and tried to get a feel for things. There were machine parts stashed toward the back on the left-hand side. I didn’t know enough about machinery to know what sort of equipment the parts might have gone to, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the fish and seafood processing plant had utilized this corner of the storage area. I wondered why the garment factory’s owner hadn’t hauled everything away. I suspected if the space wasn’t needed, the expense of removing the large objects might not have seemed worth it.
Other than the pieces of machinery in one corner, the majority of the space contained boxes or used furniture. The furniture looked to have been left behind by the garment factory, although a few pieces looked more like something that would belong in a restaurant, so maybe Dory had added to the clutter during the decades she owned the place.
Taking a step forward, I slipped the lid off one of the boxes. It looked like employee files. Based on the dates on the documents, it appeared the files were related to past employees of the Bistro. I might want to hang on to these. It seemed probable that someone would inquire about a past employee at some point, so having the records on hand made a lot of sense.
I continued sorting while Hennessy decided to scoot between the boxes and explore a pile further to the back of the room. All the boxes closest to the front of the room appeared to have been left by Dory. In addition to employee files, there were financial records and tax documents. Deciding that the cat had a good idea by venturing deeper into the room, I began to clear a narrow path by shoving stacks of boxes to one side or the other. When I came to the boxes containing old vinyl albums from the sixties and seventies, I paused to sort through the albums. I’d hoped for classic rock but instead found opera. Opera wasn’t really my thing, but someone had left behind quite the collection.
“Shelby, are you up here?” I heard my dining room manager, Kennedy Swanson, call out.
“I’m in the storage room,” I called back.
Kennedy poked her head in through the doorway. “I can hear you, but I can’t see you.”
“I’m behind a stack of boxes. Hang on, and I’ll make my way toward you.”
“No need to do that. I came up to let you know that Addy has a half-day of summer camp today, and Reagan is tied up with a client, so I need to pick her up.” Addy was Kennedy’s ten-year-old daughter, and Reagan was Kennedy’s sister. Kennedy was a single mother, so Reagan often helped with rides in the afternoons. “It’s slow this morning, and Nikki is here to cover. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Kennedy referred to the Bistro’s newest employee, Nikki Peyton.
“Okay, no problem. Thanks for letting me know.”
With that, Kennedy scurried away.
After Kennedy left, I continued my search, hoping to find other valuable items. While I had never acquired a taste for opera, I was sure the albums would be worth something to a collector. Maybe I’d take everything down and show my songwriting bartender, Dawson, what I’d found. He’d be the sort to appreciate the old albums even if they weren’t the classic rock I’d been hoping they’d be. Just beyond the albums were boxes and boxes containing a variety of lace and ribbon, so I assumed this section of the room had been utilized by the garment factory. I didn’t know much about the history of the place prior to Dory owning it, but I was beginning to form an image of an opera-loving seamstress with roots in Europe. I’m not sure why I thought of Europe, but that was the image that came to mind when I tried to picture the individual who’d carefully picked out just the right piece of lace or adornment as an aria echoed through the high rafters.
Once I’d gotten started, I found that I very much enjoyed sorting through the boxes and looking for treasure and continued to look around for another hour before deciding to head downstairs to check in with everyone. Hennessy had wandered away, and I didn’t want to lock him in the room, so I decided to look for him before I went down.
“Here, kitty, kitty. Are you still in here?”
I still couldn’t see him, but I did hear a rustling around in the back of the room, where it looked as if mannequins, bolts of fabric, and boxes of lace and thread had been stored. “I’m going to head downstairs, so we’ll need to finish this later,” I said, hoping the cat would understand what I was saying and come out on his own. “Dawson will be here soon.” I knew that Hennessy loved Dawson most of all.
I glanced toward the back wall and continued walking forward. I could just leave the door open and allow Hennessy to find his own way out, but I preferred to close the door behind me just in case a customer wandered upstairs for some reason. Calling to the cat, I made my way toward the back of the room. I was halfway to the area where I was sure the cat was hiding when I heard a crash.
“Hennessy? Are you okay?”
I picked up the pace and continued walking forward. When I finally reached my destination, I found the cat sitting atop a pile of albums that had been dumped from one of the boxes I’d been looking through. I picked the albums up and placed them back into the box. I picked the cat up and was about to leave when I noticed a leather-bound journal that must have been in the box with the albums. Not wanting to set Hennessy down lest he run off again, I shifted the cat to one arm, picked the journal up, and headed out of the room.
Once I’d closed and locked the door behind me, I set the cat on the floor and opened the journal. As I suspected, the pages were handwritten. The text was penned in a language other than English, and the last few pages featured several rows of numbers.
“Well, I wonder what this is all about,” I said to the cat, who sat at my feet. “It looks like some sort of code.” I wanted to take a closer look at the handwritten pages, so I tucked the journal under my arm and headed downstairs.
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