This article was written by Bill Gilman and originally appeared on YourTewksburyToday.com
With new owners, a new manager and new kitchen team, patrons of The Skybox Restaurant and Sports Bar might be worries about major changes to their favorite eatery and watering hole.
While there maybe some new people in new roles, patrons will quickly realize there are several familiar faces to make this time of transition rather comfortable.
The business, located at 553 Main St., Tewksbury, was recently purchased by the father-son team of Ken and Chris Cutillo, and one of their first orders of business was to hire a new manager of record. They didn’t have to look far, hiring longtime bartender Tammy Minchello. According to Ken Cutillo, the overall quality of the staff at Skybox was one of the most attractive elements of the deal.
“Our entire staff is excellent, with deep experience in the restaurant industry and a real connection with our customers,” said Cutillo, adding that Minchello is a great example of that, and a perfect fit for the role of manager of record. She has a strong knowledge of the restaurant industry, someone who is already viewed as a leader by staff and customers and someone who shares the Cutillos’ vision for The Skybox.
“Chris and I are 50-50 partners but we don’t feel like we have the requisite experience in the restaurant industry. That’s why we asked Tammy to take on this role,” said Cutillo. “She is our longest tenured employee, and has a tremendous commitment to customer service. That’s not just our assessment, but it was the prior owner’s assessment , too.”
Minchello has worked at Skybox for close to 10 years, primarily as a bartender, though she has taken on several other roles over that time. Prior to that she worked for a number of years for Maverick’s in South Tewksbury.
Her philosophy is simple — make the customers feel like family.
“I’m very close with a lot of customers, and try to get to know new customers that come in,” she said. “All of the bartenders (and staff) have the same philosophy, to make every customer feel like the most important person ever. And I think we all do a very good job of that, and I think that’s why people come back.”
Cutillo has first-hand experience with the professionalism and hospitality of Minchello and the Skybox staff. Back in September, he and his son began “scouting” Skybox as a possible investment. They came to the sports bar frequently as customers to evaluate the business, the clientele and the staff. One might call it “Undercover Potential Boss.”
“He ate an awful lot of lunches,” said Minchello, with a chuckle. “I got to know all the things he would order, I taught him how to play Keno, I kind of pressured him into it. I just thought he was a regular customer.”
Cutillo (who admits he put on five pounds during his scouting mission) came away impressed.
“We got to know all the staff, and everyone was so welcoming. Tammy is very outgoing, she made us feel comfortable, interacting with us,” he said. “And then when we started really looking at this opportunity, working with the seller, we said ‘who can we look at in terms of this manager role?’ and he quickly identified Tammy.”
“That’s really why I’ve been here so long, is that we work so well together as a team,” said Minchello. “And now, with Chris and Ken, it’s a positive. I think, from this point forward, anything done or seen by the community, it’s a positive thing for everyone.”
While Minchello has gotten to know some members of the community as a bartender, her new role as manager will open up new opportunities for outreach.
“Chris and Ken have given me the opportunity to go out into the community (representing Skybox), which I didn’t have before,” she said. “For example, we’ve talked about first responders, they’re a huge part of the community. We’d like to acknowledge them.”
One of the first initiatives of the new owners will be to host a “First Responders Night” at Skybox, to honor those serve the community on the front lines. Cutillo and Minchello said they feel Skybox has an obligation to be strong corporate citizens and will be pro-active in terms of community outreach.
Another group that The Skybox has connected with are customers of Maverick’s, which closed permanently earlier this year. Minchello knows some from her time as a bartender there. However, many more are likely to find their way to the other end of Route 38, when they realize that the three talented Maverick’s chefs have been hired by Skybox.
Cutillo said the new culinary team has been a terrific addition and have already made their mark by adding several seafood selections to the Skybox menu.
“The seafood was huge (at Maverick’s),” said Minchello. “And I can’t tell you how much seafood I’ve sold already.”
Cutillo and Minchello say faithful customers of The Skybox don’t have to worry about any radical changes. The service staff will remain largely intact, the restaurant will continue to feature live music on a regular basis and will maintain its atmosphere as a family-friendly sports bar.
“We know that in acquisitions there can be anxiety about what will happen,” said Cutillo. “But my feeling is that you don’t pursue an acquisition unless you have a good team in place.
“The plan is good food, good service, come here to watch the game, music on the weekends and then work to enhance the physical facility and the menu.”