The Birth of a Business

IT TAKES A VILLAGE to raise a child. But it can also take a village to raise a restaurant, as one hills couple will attest.

Henry and Kathleen Vortriede had been dreaming of their own eatery for years. They loved to cook and they loved to entertain. But little did they know that they’d be opening a place in their own home town, with money they’d borrowed to remodel their house.

The end result was a restaurant that is fast becoming a local favorite — Montclair Bistro in the old Gary’s Grill & Bar on Medau Place.

Here’s where our village comes in. “We gutted the building,” Henry Vortriede said. He hired local contractor Jack Stabb to do the work, with property manager Ann Moody and the Montclair Village Association’s Helen Wyman “bird dogging the project.”

When construction was done, the interior decorating began. That’s where local shops Raimondi’s and P.S Home helped out — with everything from the paint to ideas for the window coverings.

The end result is the kind of restaurant Montclair has been waiting for — “casually elegant, but not stuffy,” Vortriede says. He calls it a clean country French/Tuscan mix, and his menu compliments the decor. From tender truffled bordelaise steaks to sweet cream puff swans, dining here is a celebration of life. And judging by the reaction so far, folks have a lot to celebrate.

Reader’s corner

Thanks to Joe Sullivan (owner of the Book Tree), for letting me know that he’s selling autographed copies of Gary Erickson’s new book. I wrote about Erickson (the founder of Clif Bars) last week, but was remiss in mentioning that “Raising the Bar” is available at local bookstores, as well as the big chains.

Gary is a local guy, and I should have known he’d be signing autographs at the Book Tree on the night of Thursday, Dec. 2 — during the Montclair Village Stroll. Buy a copy, and Joe will kick in some money for the Catholic charity Project Joybells.

Get cooking

Hills resident Jennifer Sandstrom, owner of Someone’s in the Kitchen, says the new Montclair Village store will celebrate its grand opening from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the shop — 6128 La Salle Ave.

E-mail bag

Diane Hill is one of several readers to comment on the new safety median going up along Highway 13. She writes: “To learn that they are planning to put up a wall in the median section of the freeway is very upsetting to me, especially on such a pretty section of the freeway. It seems to me that Caltrans is determined to build walls — sound walls or median walls.”

Diane was part of the grassroots effort to stop the sound wall on Highway 13. She says it was “a long, hard road,” in part because the funds had already been earmarked for the project.

Flower power

Good things come to those who wait, and daffodils are the perfect example of this. St. Paul’s School kids are planting 2,000 bulbs over the next week, at the entrance to Lakeside Park and around Children’s Fairyland and the Veterans Administration Building.

Home Depot is donating the bulbs to the city of Oakland, for groups who pledge to plant them on public property. The goal is 25,000 big, beautiful blooms by spring. If your group wants to help, call 510- 434-5126.

Lamenting the landscape

While flowers create just the right air, there’s something else creating an “air” these days. Reader Jonathon Dranger notes the plethora of potties dotting the hills. “There are three outdoor johns on my street alone,” he sighs, adding they’ve been there for months. I guess we should be grateful they don’t have half moons carved in them.


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