North Texas Daily

Denton bistro celebrates 20 years

Denton bistro celebrates 20 years

June 25
19:09 2014

Kresheera Helaire / Intern Writer

This month, the oldest establishment in downtown Denton is celebrating 20 prosperous years of business.

The Chestnut Tree Teahouse and Bistro was co-founded by UNT alum Valeree Clegg and her mother Betty Chestnut in 1994.

“My mother is the one who financed this place and handed it over to me about seven years ago,” Clegg said. “Thirteen years later and I’m still kicking”

Clegg and her family are heavily involved with every aspect of the restaurant. Her husband is the electrician and plumber while her sister is the resident chef.

Clegg and Chestnut were aware of the dangers of opening a new restaurant. Many of them usually die out in about two years or so, but this duo set out to beat the odds that were set against them.

At first, vendors were brought into the teahouse to help support utilities and rent. There were antique items for sale in the front-half of the restaurant and about eight tables in the back for consumers.

The décor started out festive and colorful, in line with styles of the early 90’s. However, the place is now decked out in a more upscale fashion to coincide with current trends.

About three years ago, the owner decided to eliminate all retail, minus a few tea pots, and operate as a full-service diner.

Executive Chef Suzanne Johnson described the on-going battle between attracting a broader consumer audience and remaining loyal to their regulars.

“A lot of men refused to dine in our establishment because it seemed “too feminine” for them. We wanted to have more men come in, but at the same time, we didn’t want the customers that have been supporting us for 20 years to come in and not recognize the place” Johnson said.

“We’ve realized now that we almost have to keep up with the times to remain relevant,” she said “I think we cater to our male customers a bit more because of our new look and added services.”

Despite a few alterations, many customers described the Chestnut Tree as fine wine- it’s only gotten better with age.

Longtime customer Charlotte Ragle usually orders one of their famous salads along with a cool glass of peach tea.

“If it’s your first time going, I’d recommend a salad or a sandwich on beer-batter bread; they’re delicious,” Ragle said.

Jerry Marshall and Cole Dalton enjoy dining in occasionally as well.

“I remember they use to have these awesome muffins for you and your group, but most of the time, it would be the chalkboard out front that would lure me in to eat,” Marshall said.

The weekly specials entice their appetite every time, whether it’s the combos or desserts.

“The service is very friendly and efficient. You basically get what you pay for and the quality is well worth it,” Dalton said. “Although I haven’t taken her here yet, I always say, ‘My mom would love this place.'”

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