August 16, 2010


if you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ve often heard me refer to the palette – most of you know what this is, but I haven’t really described it in detail. and to be honest, I’ve tossed this post around in my head for days and I’m still not exactly sure what to say and how to say it. I guess a small history would be a good place to begin. while I was in school in baltimore for photography at MICA, I got my first restaurant job and loved it from day one. I love the energy, the comradery, the hours and the lifestyle – all of it. and even after school was over, I stayed in the restaurant business - from ocean city to boulder, colorado – everything from server, to bartender, to regional manager. when I moved back to the shore in 2002 it was the first time I dove seriously back into my photography, eventually opening gillette portrait arts in 2003 – but still worked in restaurants on the side. In the back of my head I, like many who have worked in the business for years, thought it would be amazing to open my own place – and in 2005 one of my dreams became a reality. at the beginning the place was a little 30 seater bistro I named the palette. in the years since we expanded to the second floor, doubling our capacity – we began live entertainment, welcomed our amazing regulars as well as new guests and had an amazing journey. In the last year however, gillette portrait arts has grown to levels I never thought possible – and while I am beyond grateful, to say I’ve been stretched thin is an understatement. several months ago my husband and I had a long discussion about all of it and when he looked at me and asked me “if you had to choose one – what would it be?” and I knew it was gillette portrait arts. I’ve been so blessed to not only realize one dream, but two! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world – but it’s gotten to be too much. so three weeks ago I sat down with the person who makes the palette possible – my manager and one of my best friends hope. in just a couple of days, her youngest is leaving for college, leaving hope with an empty nest for the first time in decades. from the first time I met hope years ago, I knew that she wanted to go back to school once all of her kids were out on their own and that time has come – so here we were. we both still love the palette and the amazing place she’s become – but there were other dreams outside the walls of 104 west green street and we couldn’t do all of it. so as we sat in her living room the decision was made to shut her down. at first, the decision was to do just that. shut the doors and turn off the ovens. I was contimplating moving my studio over there because it’s such a gorgeous building – there wasn’t really a full plan in place, just a closing date. speculation began, as it tends to do in a small town – some of it amusing, some of it far fetched and frustrating – but it was obvious the word was out and spreading like wildfire. so I guess I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was a few days later when calls starting coming in from people interested in the palette. not just the restaurant as a business, but the palette for what it’s become and what it’s come to represent. after meeting with some of the interested parties, it was clear to me that the perfect person was going to take the palette into her next chapter and his name was phil. I met phil cropper through my friend kala years ago, but his reputation in the hospitality industry preceded him. phil is someone who approaches his work with zest and unmatchable creativity and when he expressed interest in the palette, I knew it was meant to be. the ideas and plans he has in store as he moves forward to re-open the palette are sure to thrill our regulars and his new guests as well. I am so excited to see how our little place thrives under his care. we are going to be open on a modified schedule through friday august 27th when we shut her down in style with the zen monkeys rockin’ the house and then phil will get in the next day to work his magic for his grand re-opening september 3rd. he will continue live entertainment with some of our favorite bands – keep a eye on your inbox as he unveils his plan for the palette!

this was NOT an easy decision and it continues to be difficult as the realities sink in. this past friday as the mood swingers were in full tilt, hope and I were behind the bar in tears – both happy & sad. the palette has been such a huge part of both of our lives, and as we wrap up our part in it’s running, there are bittersweet moments. I am beyond excited to be able to devote all of my professional time into gillette portrait arts. kristie and I have so many ideas and plans to take GPA to the next level and now I’ll have the time needed to turn these ideas into realities. I look forward to spending more time with my friends and being able to travel to see people I haven’t seen in years. being able to spend more time with my amazing husband is the best part of this decision and we may even find time to finally go on a honeymoon!

the outpouring of inquiries, love and support from all of our guests and friends has been amazing. It struck me on this past first friday that we truly achieved what we had set out to do – from day one we wanted to be a place for folks to come for great food and service and we did that. I think what I didn’t expect was that we became people’s “place” – the place you go to celebrate, to be together, to feel at home. that’s going to be what I take with me as the days wind down – that the palette became bigger than a restaurant – it was a family and for that I’m truly grateful.

I want to close with thanking everyone who rode this crazy train with us

all of our amazing guests & regulars – YOU are what made every service fun and kept the doors open – even through a massive recession. we are eternally grateful for your support & love!

our musicians: phil knight, slim denunn, dark gold jazz, the raucous brothers, cherrybud, the rukie dize band & the larks – thank you! the zen monkeys – so happy you’ll be with us on the last day – I’m a little biased because there’s a family connection – but I love you girls and love the energy you’ve brought to the palette! and finally, the mood swingers who were our first act and set the bar for palette entertainment – thank you thank you thank you!!!!

former employees bradfield, david, ashley k, linda, sue l, kayla, leah k, mariah, jamie, kala, prescilla, barry, sarah, lee, marie, susan, sheila, ashley, leah r, amanda b: whether you were with us for a summer or several years – thank you!

bridgette hillagoss & leslie bounds: 2 recent newcomers to the palette but are lifesavers as we wind down – thanks so much for your help!

amanda grames: put some plans on hold to help us out until the end – thanks girl!

kristie cooper: yep she’s part of the palette too! kris has been with us on and off from the beginning and will be there closing night. I’m so happy I get to keep working with my girl at GPA – you’re like my daughter/sister and I love you like crazy

taylor waidner: you grew up and came into your own while under the roof of the palette – I know you’re going to thrive in college & beyond

chef jim lewis – from helping me paint the outside before we opened to creating the menu and cuisine that would define the palette – I’ll never be able to thank you enough

jude robinson – was onboard with me before the ink was dry. jude was the pinnacle of professional service and part time den mother :) love you!

chef eric “moose” waidner – you stepped in when I needed you and FAR exceeded my expectations! you’re going to do amazing things in your career and I’m proud the palette has played a role in the amazing chef you have become.

ann & randy coates – who knew I was just crazy enough to open the palette and supported me every step of the way. you’re always there for me and I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

my grandparents paul & ethel gladding – rarely does a day go by when I put my key into the door of the palette when I don’t think of you – some of my fondest memories were made with you in this very building when I was little and it was evelyn’s. I wouldn’t be in snow hill without you and I have loved having guests come in who have told me stories about you from way back when. I know had you still been here, you would have been at a special table every night.

my parents cornelia & rockwood gillette – I learned what it took to open and run a business by watching both of you – you were both such amazing examples. I am so grateful that dad was able to see the palette in it’s early stages. I like to think you can both see what’s happened and what your lessons helped me create over the past 6 years – I miss you both SO much 

the hubs roland whaley – easily the most patient man in the world. you let me work insane hours, often surviving on pizza for days at a time. you built us a beautiful second floor dining space at the palette. you’ve spent almost every friday night home alone with our dogs waiting up for me to get home so I could tell you how the night went. you’re my biggest cheerleader and part time therapist. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve someone like you to grow old with but I love you more than anything in the world!

hope waidner – girl, I don’t even know what to say. the palette wouldn’t be the palette without you. you know me better than practically anyone. you were there to prop me up when dad got sick and I hope I was there for you as you had your own burdens. you knew when to call me in and when to send me home, when to tell me what I needed to hear and when to edit out the useless noise. you knew my looks and spoke my language. you have become a best friend and a sister and to thank you would sound trite. I wish you all of the happiness you deserve and know that working apart will only bring us closer – I love you and am grateful for you forever.

  • Wow Raye. What a touching post. I wish you only the best and know GPA is going to soar to insane levels. You are so talented and your passion shows in everything you do. I’m just bummed Sean and I never made it to the Palette with you at the helm. Best of luck, lady!

  • Wow! Tears of Joy & Sadness as I read your blog Raye Raye. You write beautifully too! I am trying to arrange my schedule so I can be there to “Shut’er down”. Love you to the Sun and back again! Jude

  • This blob post is beautiful. Very touching. we will miss you!

  • You’re amazing Raye!and so is this blog. I’ve shared it with Alex – like me, he too will be saddened at your leaving, but joyous that you have another passion to go to. You indeed accomplished what you set out to do; i.e., good food, FAST and FRIENDLY service and an amazing atmosphere. Good luck in all your future endeavors. We’ll miss you and your spectacular staff!!

  • How lovely. I felt a flood of memories as I read each line. Thank you for creating such a beautiful place with wonderful food.