By Katy Savage
Donald Billings doesn’t like to sit still.
After relocating his Rutland restaurant, Roots, to Washington Street and reopening Dec. 7 with double the seating, Billings, the owner and chef, opened a market and deli in Killington. Now he’s ready to open another restaurant.
Crux was scheduled to open on Killington Road this past weekend.
Billings purchased the building, formerly On the Rocs, on a whim about three weeks ago from Ron and Jamie Amadeo.
After about 12 years, the Amadeos said they were looking for a change.
“Taxes are too high and I can’t get workers,” Ron said.
Ron Amadeo said he spoke with two business owners about purchasing the building after struggling for years to attract locals. Billings seemed like the best fit to Ron and Jamie. “Hopefully they do well here,” Jamie said.
Ron and Jamie spent part of the day Thursday, Dec. 20, packing their belongings. Their uncle, Richard Baur, loaded a pick-up truck with a moose head that hung from the restaurant’s walls. Baur shot the 1700-pound moose in British Columbia in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Billings was moving his staff inside.
Billings plans to have 10 employees during the peak season. New staff were getting used to Billings fast-paced style.
“He’s high-energy,” said Scott O’Connor, who worked in the kitchen.”He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.”
Billings spends his days driving between his businesses in Rutland and Killington. Besides Roots, he also owns The Bakery on West Street, downtown.
He’s busy but Billings said the restaurant business is easy for him. Billings, 43, said his grandparents drove from California to Vermont in 1973 and opened an inn, simply because they liked it here.
Like his family, Billings makes quick decisions.
As part of the purchase from the Amadeos, Billings opened Mountain Merchant (formerly the Phat Italian Deli & Market), three weeks ago, selling coffee, deli items and beer.
Though Billings has decades of experience in restaurants, the market and deli, which includes a gas station, is new to him.
“The Phat Italian was known for sandwiches,”he said. “ We want to be known for more than just that. We want to get that local clientele coming in. We’re trying to get that quick flow for people.”
Billings is trying to make the beer garden one of the largest in southern Vermont, with 500 different craft beers.
Billings is also using items from his bakery, like homemade English muffins, to make healthy grab-and-go food options.
General Manager John Pisanelli, who worked at the Phat Italian for 11 years, will continue his role at the Mountain Merchant. “There are a lot of new ideas,” Pisanelli, said.
Billings said the menu for Crux will be similar to Roots, with homemade pastas and locally sourced meats and vegetables.
Photo by Katy Savage
The sign for a new restaurant, Crux, is erected. It is located at the former On the Rocs.