A new year also means new management for Bridge Road Bistro in Charleston. Longtime General Manager Sandy Call took over as owner on Tuesday.
Robert Wong opened the restaurant’s doors in August 2004. He ran the farm-to-table restaurant with his wife, Sherri Wong, until he died suddenly in 2012. Sherri Wong then took over the business.
Call said she had been in talks with Wong about buying the restaurant for years, and made the purchase in June.
“She’s been a great leader, and it seemed like a natural progression. She was [Robert’s] last hire,” Wong said.
Call was hired as general manager in 2011, about a year before Robert Wong died. She said she felt she needed to have a presence at the restaurant then more than ever.
“Robert would tell me, ‘I always know if something happens to me, I know you’ll be there for my family,’” Call said. “That always rang true to me.”
The Wongs got to know Call when she was a representative for Red Bull North America and Budweiser.
When the position first came open for general manager, Call didn’t think she would apply. She had worked in the corporate world for Outback Steakhouse and O’Charley’s since the ’90s and was looking to get out of the business.
“But somehow, someway the man above told me to send my resume in,” Call said.
After opening numerous chain restaurants, she grew frustrated seeing money going out of state.
“I saw myself working to the bone, and the money I was generating was going to our owners and the leaders of these big businesses, who were building their fourth and fifth house in Paris,” Call said. “All this money is going out of West Virginia.”
Call said this was especially difficult to see because she had her start in small business. She worked at River’s Edge in St. Albans as a server in high school and college.
“I needed to go back to my roots, is basically what this was,” Call said. “God put me in the corporate world and he put me in the independent world. He also put me with Sherri and Robert for a reason.”
She said when she worked with the couple as a sales representative, one of the things she noticed was their hospitality.
At the numerous chain restaurants she’s opened and observed, she said she’s never seen anyone treat their employees like the Wongs. She recalled they would have family meals for the employees twice a day.
“I’ve never seen owners or leaders treat their staff like that, and it was very refreshing,” Call said.
She said it was their attitudes that inspired her to stay in the restaurant industry.
“I needed that in my life. I needed more belief in the restaurant business,” Call said. “Once I got away from it, I realized that I was meant for it.”