From left, co-owners Kristen Fehrenbach, Gary Smith, John-Michael Maciejewski sit at the bar at Popolo Restaurant in Bellows Falls. (Zachary P.
From left, co-owners Kristen Fehrenbach, Gary Smith, John-Michael Maciejewski sit at the bar at Popolo Restaurant in Bellows Falls. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
Thursday May 23, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- General Manager Gary Smith has previously likened running Popolo restaurant to managing musical artists like Natalie Merchant, comparing a band to the kitchen staff, a backstage crew to the food servers and patrons to concert-goers.

He also has been known to use a car metaphor, saying he and partners Kristen Fehrenbach and John-Michael Maciejewski did not get a test drive before having to make sure all the restaurant's moving parts were in order and trying to avoid the breakdown lane.

But Popolo proved well-oiled and has served 30,000 meals since opening a year ago. And the restaurant's management has lined up a collection of musical performances to celebrate its first anniversary.

The Primate Fiasco, a Northampton, Mass.-based psychedelic Dixieland group, is slated to play on Friday. The doors open at 8 p.m. and the band hits the stage at 8:30. The first Popolo Open Mic Extravaganza is scheduled for Saturday night and Sunday is set to cap off Memorial Day Weekend with The Break Maids (an all-women trio) and country music band Rusty Belle.

According to Smith, The Break Maids play at noon before Matt and Kate Lorenz and Zak Trojano take the stage at 1:15 p.m. There will be a normal brunch at 10 a.m. and food will continued to be served until 3 p.m.

Admission is free to all shows.

As someone with an extensive background in the music industry, Smith feels a few days of live music is the perfect way to commemorate Popolo's first year.

"It's been fabulous. We've done much been than we ever thought we would," he told the Reformer. "People have been very, very welcoming and supportive and we've really established ourselves."

Smith said he and his partners spent eight months devising a business plan before seeking investors for the restaurant. The investment opportunity was advertised to friends and family and the word spread quickly. Investments as low as $5,000 and as high as $40,000 came in and now Popolo has about 25 shareholders. Smith said last week the shareholders are all very happy following a successful winter and there is still money being invested in infrastructure.

Popolo -- the Italian word for "people" -- serves up Italian-inspired food and Smith said he likes to think of it as an everyman's eatery.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.