Stacy and Lance Raffo are the owners of Whistle Punk Grill and Taphouse located in Richwood, West Virginia – in Nicholas County. Whistle Punk Grill and Taphouse is a casual dining restaurant located in downtown Richwood. The owners love Richwood, the Mountaineers, West Virginia, adventure and good food; they wanted to bring their style of food to a place they love.
The Whistle Punk serves handcrafted food with unique flavor combinations, utilizing as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. The food can be paired with a wide selection of craft beer on tap, domestics and wine, including local wines.
The atmosphere of the Whistle Punk is casual but is as unique and interesting as the food! Located in historic downtown Richwood, the building was built in 1923 as the Richwood Bakery. During the restoration and renovations, many historical details from the beautiful building were preserved, including the original floors, ceiling tiles, windows and many other cool features that create a fun ambiance.
Stacy was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. She talked with podcast host, Jim Matuga, about the thriving business in Richwood.
How did you get started in this industry?
“I would say we got into the business accidentally. Lance has always worked in food and beverage. He got his first job at 14, and it was on a barbecue truck as a dishwasher. Then, he moved up to a pulled pork puller and then moved up to other aspects of restaurants, growing up in some of the crab houses in downtown Indianapolis.
That was his major in college, as well. He’s worked in Snowshoe and fine dining, he’s work at the Greenbriar and the Ritz Carlton. He has the gambit of knowledge in food and beverage,” said Raffo.
“I always joke that my one food and beverage job was at the Richwood Pizza Hut in college, and my manager joked with me and said that it was a good thing that I was going back to college because he would have to fire me.”
“After that 2016 flood in Richwood, some of the people who grew up in Richwood and still lived there, we started talking about what Richwood used to be and what we would like to see it be again, and I think we all realized that was only going to happen if we made it happen.
There was a re-commitment amongst ourselves to take chances that we have never thought about taking. A couple of our friends had already opened up businesses on Main Street when the building that we’re in became available and another couple had been renovating that building. They separated and had to sell the building.
Our involvement was trying to convince other people that the building was a good investment and that Lance was willing to consult with them on setting up their menu and kitchen. Everyone felt that it was too big of a risk, and nobody wanted to do it. Lance and I just felt like there was so much potential there. People always say that people don’t stop in Richwood because we don’t give them a reason to stop. So, Lance said ‘let’s just do it ourselves.’”
What is the best thing about being in business in WV – right now?
“We love West Virginia. We moved back here because we wanted to be here. It feels really good for us because we are contributing to our community and our state by making it a good place to work, live and visit. I know it sounds ridiculous to say that having a restaurant makes a place better, but we’re a part of people’s memories and best moments in life. We’re excited to be a part of that,” said Raffo.
What is the biggest challenge you face right now?
“Getting people in the door during slower seasons. We certainly get a lot of traffic from Snowshoe. Richwood is 26-miles off the interstate. No one goes into Richwood unless you’re going to Snowshoe or into the forest to recreate,” said Raffo. “Just reminding people that we are there and always serving good food.”
What is one piece of advice you would give a young entrepreneur?
“I think at some point you just have to take the leap of faith,” advised Raffo. “There are a ton of organizations and support in West Virginia that want to see West Virginia businesses succeed. I know in our area, we have West Virginia Hive and then the Mon Forest Town Initiative.”
Raffo was a guest on the Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to her full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS | WHISTLE PUNK GRILL & TAPHOUSE
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- PIECE OF ADVICE: “I think at some point you just have to take the leap of faith,” advised Raffo.