This August we will celebrate a birthday of sorts, the one-year anniversary of the reopening of the new Huckleberry at Moore Center. The milepost will prompt renewed appreciation of what the Huck staff has accomplished, and also an evaluation – of food and beverage, certainly, but also the quality of and general atmosphere of the dining experience, the ease and efficiency of operation, and financial performance.
Planned to open by June of 2022, the new Huck’s debut was delayed last summer for a variety of reasons, including an inspection that concluded, rather late in the timeline, that the project’s scope had moved past “renovation” and into “new restaurant” territory, consequently subjecting the kitchen to more stringent code standards and further renovations. The extensive overhaul seems to have been worth the wait in light of the generally positive public reception that the new Huck has received. Now, I wonder what lessons we will employ as we prepare for yet another renovation.
The Barn, one of Montreat’s most beloved and heavily utilized facilities, needs some work. Initial conversations have suggested that the bathrooms need an overhaul, a new plan for storage is a must, and an integrated sound system should certainly be considered. Oh, and it’s generally assumed that a sprinkler system would be, shall we say, a very good idea.
Beyond that, our instinct is to tread cautiously. First, we have learned from the Huck’s renovation that ambition can lead to unforeseen challenges, expense, and delay. Going an entire summer without the Huck was one thing; no one working in our Clubs and Recreation program or on our conference staff wants to contemplate a summer without access to the Barn.
Even more importantly, a Barn renovation differs from a Huck renovation in another respect. Needed upgrades notwithstanding, we mostly like the Barn the way it is. Sure, there have been changes over the past fifty years or so but stepping into the Barn in 2023 feels very much like it felt in 1973. It’s more than a building; it’s an intergenerational time machine that brings an intangible, ineffable energy to Montreat and our ministry. Other parts of our campus have their uses; the Barn has a calling (pun intended, but still!).
Other than Anderson Auditorium, one can argue that no facility on the conference center’s campus holds quite the same power. The conception of the Huck’s new interior design, for example, sought as its goal a completely new look and feel, and my guess is that no one is out there composing elegies on the former décor or vibe of the old Huck. In contrast, while we began plans for a Huck renovation hoping to imagine something new, the prime directive of a Barn renovation would focus to a much larger degree on the “something” that is there. It’s a challenge of a completely different texture.
In 2021, a community survey was very helpful to our planning for the Huck’s renovation, and now again, we want to hear from you. Please weigh in with your thoughts about what you love about the Barn and what the Barn needs. You can find the short, four-question survey here.
This being the last This Week in Montreat of the season, may grace and peace abound to all in the year ahead, wherever you may be. And, as these final days of summer bring to all of us the urge to make the most of every last minute together, let’s look after each other through the end of the last minute here in Montreat. Godspeed.
Join us for a one-year celebration of the Huckleberry on Friday August 25th. We’ll have cake, raffles, and more! Watch upcoming Community Announcements for more details.
President, Montreat Conference Center