Little things make big difference for Henry, Campbell

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Bo Henry and Stewart Campbell don't need any cautionary tales to remind them of the perils of the restaurant business. They need only take a look around them.

Take Hooters, a popular chain that just shut its doors. Or Build Your Burger, which was here and gone in a flash. Or Strollin's Burgers and Barbecue, which lasted less than a year. Or the Plantation Grille or Fincher's Barbecue ... establishments that were once located in buildings that now house two of Henry's and Campbell's popular restaurants.

No, the pair who are the business brains -- and heart and soul -- behind Stewbo's LLC's holdings know all about the shaky economy and the havoc it's left in its wake over the last several years. And yet Harvest Moon has been around for a decade now, three years at its current location at 2347 Dawson Road. The Catch Seafood & Oyster Bar, located at 2332 Whispering Pines Road, just celebrated its 1,000th day of business, while the upscale Henry Campbell's Steakhouse at 629 N. Westover Blvd. has been serving customers for a year and a half.

"There are a lot of factors involved in the restaurant business, but it really comes down to good food and good service," said Henry, who opened Harvest Moon downtown before shifting operations to west Albany in January of 2008, a half-year after bringing seafood to that region with the opening of The Catch.

"Stewart and I think alike on 99 percent of the things associated with our business, and it helps that we're on the same page. But we've been able to make it where maybe others haven't because of our great staff. We hire the best people and depend on them to do their jobs.

"We've got folks who have been with us for a long time, some the whole 10 years we've been in business. That's almost unheard of in the restaurant business."

The teaming of Campbell and Henry is an unlikely one, but it's one that obviously works. That has, according to the pair, as much to do with their differences as it does their similar philosophies.

"My family has always been in the food service industry, but it was from the equipment side of it," Campbell said. "I left Albany in '87 but came back in '04. I knew who Bo was, of course, but I got to know him better because we were dating (and later married) sisters.

"I knew absolutely nothing about running a restaurant, but I knew the equipment side. And Bo, well, he knows pretty much everyone south of Macon. It just turned out to be a good fit."

Henry and Cambell are so like-minded they often complete each other's thoughts during a conversation. The musician/restaurateur, whose initial Harvest Moon partnership dissolved after two years, was happy to bring Campbell on to share in the enterprise.

"Stewart's strong points were the things I had zero knowledge in," Henry said. "He had 15 years of experience with the equipment and maintenance side of things, where I was totally without a clue.

"To show you what I mean, when we opened Harvest Moon downtown, we bought a piece of equipment that we were told we needed for $3,000. We never used it. Stewart knows what we really need to run a restaurant; I don't."

While the three Stewbo's establishments have their own unique personalities -- Harvest Moon serves a mix of modern and traditional dishes in a casual, laid-back atmosphere and features live music several nights a week; The Catch offers fresh seafood in a more elegant setting; Henry Campbell's offers steaks in perhaps Albany's most upscale dining establishment -- they share common traits, chief among them atmosphere, an element missing at most local eateries.

"One of my customers told me once 'You get to host a party every night'," Campbell said. "That's kind of the way we approach the business. There are plenty of options for Albany diners, so if they choose one of our restaurants we want to make sure they feel like every dollar they spend is money well-spent.

"And there are a lot of little things. Like the bricks and the millwork (in Henry Campbell's) came from Flint River Textile. Albany, Georgia is stamped on every brick. And we keep people informed about all three places through our website (stewbos.com) and provide limo service to and from the restaurants for people who want to make sure they have a safe ride home on the weekends."

Henry agrees.

"When you get down to it," he says, "it's important for our customers -- and our staff -- to realize that we are thankful for what they provide. No business survives without customers, and we appreciate it every time they come into one of our places. But Stewart and I can't cook or receive or serve or throw away the food. It takes everyone, and we make sure our employees know they are appreciated."

Quality is another factor the pair claim is crucial to all three establishments.

"We buy fresh, and we buy local," Henry said. "We get four or five seafood deliveries a week, fresh from Apalachicola (Florida) or the Gulf (of Mexico), and we get produce deliveries every day.

"Our oysters come from Apalachicola, which is only three hours away, so they're as fresh as you can get. And our beef is 'upper two-thirds choice Angus reserve' or prime, which is the best you can get. And we make our chicken pot pie fresh every day. We don't reheat it; it's a new batch every day."

Campbell and Henry take good care of their 130-135 employees, many of whom provided labor as the establishments were transformed.

"One of our assistant managers laid the tile (at Harvest Moon) and at The Catch," Campbell said. "I think that's something our folks take pride in. We'll hear them telling a customer sometime about the things they've done at the restaurants. That personal involvement makes them do their jobs better."

One assistant manager really bought into the Stewbo's brand.

"We had one of our guys work with us his last two years of high school and two years at Darton College," Henry said. "He went to Georgia State (University in Atlanta), but when he came home for the holidays he'd work with us. He got his degree, and now he's back with us.

"Plus we've had six or seven of our girls graduate from school and enter the medical profession, but they still work with us some weekends. They're still part of our family."

With three successful establishments in place, many entrepreneurs would consider themselves lucky and stand pat. But Stewbo's principles Henry and Campbell say they're always open to new opportunities.

"We'll be looking," Henry said -- and Campbell interjected, "always" -- "for the next opportunity. We may not be actively searching, but we'll keep our options open. That's what happened with Henry Campbell's. That was not exactly the best time to start a new business, but the owner of the building offered us a good deal so we took it.

"My granddad always used to say 'You're not going to lose if you don't try, but you're not going to win either'," Henry added. "We're always open to opportunities, and we're going to try to keep doing the little things to make our places better. Little things can make a big difference."