When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Pick It Up

With apologies to Yogi Berra, owner Jimmy Parker of the Red Hat Bistro & Bar at 63 Main Street in Irvington has done just that, ending one successful career and starting another that now looks to be as successful as the first.

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Jimmy Parker and Mary Beth Dooley

In 2002, Jim was CEO of Christopher Films, a well-known New York television production firm that dealt with other overseas TV commercial production companies. In 2003, Jimmy had totally switched careers, leaving his TV position and opening a brand new restaurant in a building that he literally had to reconstruct from the ground up. The new restaurant is now an unqualified success. So much so, that he plans an addition in a rear courtyard area, converting that area to 25 or 30 more seats depending on the event. Jim expects that to be completed by next June.

While television production consumed much of his working career, which included a stint at Screen Gems, a 1992 movie with Dennis Quaid, Arliss Howard and Debra Winger called “Wilder Napalm,” plus several years in his own production companies, Jimmy never lost touch with his formative restaurant days. In his early twenties, he worked at a number of restaurants in NYC including Maxwell’s Plum. He supplanted his restaurant work by doing some carpentry on the side. In 1975 a friend recommended him for redesigning the kitchen of a NY television production company called Rosetti Films. Based on his work, they asked him to be a production assistant, starting his career in the television commercial production business.

In 1980, Jim married Mary Beth Dooley, moving to Irvington with their son in 1989. In 1992, they received word from a friend that the building which Red Hat now occupies would soon be available. It was a lifetime dream and, with Mary Beth’s approval, they decided to go ahead. At the time Mary Beth was also an executive in a NYC commercial production company called “Full Blue/Click3X.”

With little experience in setting up a restaurant from scratch, Jim first relied on his production abilities in building stage “sets” that would be used in live commercials. This technique gave him a process for determining how the final construction of the new restaurant would look without ending up in costly mistakes. While he knew he always wanted a French bistro menu and ambiance, Jimmy modeled his hospitality as if he “were throwing a large party in his own home.” That would include the very unusual and attractive wall lamps, outstanding paintings and unique ceiling fixtures that Mary Beth selected. One must mention Jimmy’s outstanding drinks that also came from his “house party” concept. Red Hat’s “bistro” menu is under the direction of Chef Jennifer Aristy.

Jimmy has the final word on what makes a restaurant successful. “If you are willing to realize that each customer has made a choice to spend their hard earned money in your restaurant, you will go out of your way to make sure that they are treated with recognition, service and respect.” Anyone that has watched the owners and personnel of all successful restaurants will be the first to acknowledge that these are characteristics central to each of their successes. Jimmy and his staff do it consistently.
Red Hat is open seven days a week for brunch, lunch and for dinner. In the last year, Parker has added the singing of Micheline Van Hautem, who brings her Jacques Brel songs to Irvington when she is not on world tour. Just recently, in November, Jimmy presented the Carmen Leggio trio with the expectation that Carmen and his sax would make additional appearances after the first of the year. Reservations: (914) 591-5888.

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About the Author: Arnold Thiesfeldt