Brass Buckle owners moving on,  Main Street eatery for sale

  • JD Hairston and Anika Balaconis of The Brass Buckle on the corner of Main and Chapman streets. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The Brass Buckle on the corner of Main and Chapman streets. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Friday, September 23, 2016

GREENFIELD — It may seem inconceivable to some that the owners of a successful restaurant would want to put their business on the market, but for the owners of the Brass Buckle, who recently announced their Main Street restaurant is for sale, the choice is part of seeking a greater challenge.

“Most people wouldn’t do it,” said JD Hairston, who has owned the Brass Buckle with his girlfriend, Anika Balaconis, since 2012. “Some might say that it’s a terrible business decision, but this isn’t necessarily a business decision, it’s a deeply personal decision.”

The restaurant has been a popular breakfast and lunch spot in Greenfield for the past five years, serving southern and Tex-Mex comfort food with an emphasis on local ingredients. It is currently listed for sale at $40,000 by Cohn and Co. Real Estate. Hairston said the decision to sell wasn’t a hasty one — he and Balaconis mulled it over for months before finally making the call. The two need a new challenge, he said, and hope to eventually do something else in town when the time is right.

“It was a very difficult decision, and I know people are scared. Don’t be scared,” Hairston said. “It is absolutely not that we’re fed up with this, and we don’t want people to get the impression that we don’t love it right now, because we still love it.”

Hairston likened his choice to sell to a recent decision one of his favorite bands made to take an extended hiatus. “The Dillinger Escape Plan,” which has been increasingly successful over the last 20 years, announced its members would stop making music together. Hairston said something the singer expressed in a recent interview really resonated with him — “If you’re a painter you don’t just paint until you run out of paint,” front man Greg Puciato said in the interview. “You don’t just paint until your arm falls off. You make a decision at some time that you made a final brushstroke.”

That’s how Hairston feels about selling the Brass Buckle. Instead of closing if things were to take a bad turn, he said it’s better to leave while things are good.

“We weren’t just going to do this until we exploded or ran out of food,” he said. “We wanted to say, ‘This is good, everyone’s still in a good mood, thanks.’”

He added that his staff is in agreement — when he announced the business was for sale two weeks ago, the team thought it was a great opportunity to embark on a new, more challenging path. But Hairston said he’ll miss everything about the restaurant, especially the regulars who stop in for their cup or coffee or plate of tacos every week.

“It means a lot to the type of people who run restaurants,” he said. “We don’t fit in a lot, but this is a place where we fit in and people seem to understand us, and we get to make lots of friends — every day we get to interact with people. Sometimes that’s really what keeps me going.”

Hairston, who is originally from Texas, moved to Greenfield in 2007 when he was 23 years old. He said he had his eyes on the restaurant’s current location since he first came to town, recalling how he sat in the window when it used to be Cafe Koko, drinking coffee and eating a cookie, thinking about what he could make happen in the space.

“I started writing notes when I arrived, like day one. And I just crafted (the Brass Buckle) according to the space and feeling out what people wanted in here,” he said.

Hairston hopes the next owners will do the same — tune into the community and offer it something. At the same time, he said he’s not in a rush to sell the business.

“We want to find the right fit,” he said. “We’re not just going to dump this off on whoever comes along with some bad idea, because we’re conscious of our community. We really are aware of the fact that it will feel to many like we’re letting them down. We’re going to try our hardest to redeem ourselves in everyone’s eyes.”

As far as their next steps, Hairston and Balaconis hope to travel, gathering ideas and figuring out how to synthesize them into something cohesive. The couple is almost entirely sure they’ll stay in Greenfield and plan to do something food-related, which has yet to be determined.

“I have a crazy passion for food and food service. I’m self-taught and I’ve always wanted more,” Hairston said. “We certainly have been very successful and everything has gone really well here and we’ve learned a lot. We feel like there’s something else we need to do, and we need to find it.”