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Independent Thoughts: Restaurant’s demise leaves bad taste

by | Jan 26, 2023 | Business, Featured, Featured: Features

Dirk Kiefer

Dirk Kiefer stands inside his recently closed restaurant, Lone Wolf BBQ at 22-24 Main Street. PHOTO/JERRY SPAR

When he opened Lone Wolf BBQ on Main Street a year ago, Dirk Kiefer really wanted to make things work in Hopkinton. After a nightmarish year, however, Kiefer is moving on.

The veteran restaurateur said he will stick around for a while to help the new owners, whom he said are planning to open a Mexican restaurant at the 22-24 Main Street location.

The bad luck started right when Lone Wolf initially opened, in December of 2021 — following three months of work on the facility, formerly home to Bittersweet. First Kiefer’s mother, Katherine, died on Dec. 28 of that year, at the age of 99. Two months later, his 57-year-old brother, who had Down syndrome and had been living with his mother, died of COVID pneumonia, Kiefer said.

In between, in early January, Kiefer dealt with the loss of close friend Jim Corsi, a former Red Sox pitcher who briefly lived in Hopkinton. Kiefer had once run a restaurant near Fenway Park and became close with some players from serving them, he said.

Despite his personal tragedies, Kiefer pushed through with the restaurant and had great success early.

“When we started out, we were killing it,” he said. “It could have been just everybody giving it a chance, whatever, but I can tell you this, from 4 o’clock to 7 o’clock at night we would do $1,200 to $1,600 without catering. And we were doing $2,000 to $3,000 in catering.”

The last banner day was Boston Marathon day in April 2022, when the business made $8,000 feeding primarily police and race workers/volunteers, he said.

“Two days after that, the road work starts,” Kiefer said of the Main Street Corridor Project. “We had been told by the leasing agent and the landlord that, yup, you’re going to have a bumpy road at the start because they’re out there repaving. That’s what we were led to believe.”

In reality, as residents know, last year’s work was extensive.

“All through the summer there was nowhere to park,” Kiefer said. “There were days when I would pull up to my own spot — paying $2,500 a month and all the utilities — and not even able to go in my front door. And when I tell you that, it was more times than not — Monday through Friday from May to [December].”

Kiefer said he often couldn’t unload supplies via his back parking spot, either, due to road closures.

“No updates from the town, no communication, no means of a fund for anybody,” he said. “It’s really disgraceful how they handled this. I really thought if there was anybody that would understand this and prepare for this and have somebody’s back, I thought it would be the town of Hopkinton.”

Michelle Murdock, the town’s project specialist, insists she did have “conversations” with Kiefer about the project, but Kiefer remains adamant that there was no communication with him, maintaining he doesn’t even know who Murdock is.

Kiefer also said there was a problem with rats — a common occurrence when excavation is involved. He said based on his past work as a health inspector he was able to set traps and avoid it becoming a major issue in his building, but it was one more problem he had to address.

“The company didn’t take any precautions or preventative measures, and the town didn’t require them to. There was nothing,” he said. “You were a boat out at sea without an engine, just drifting.”

He acknowledges that he could have reached out on his own, but he was so “disgusted by the lack of support from the town” that he did not. Eventually, he decided it all was too much.

“I wasn’t one to just give up, but I wasn’t going to do it anymore,” Kiefer said. “That day that I pulled up and could not even get in my door — they had their truck parked on the sidewalk, blocking the front door. It reminded me of ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ — all that chaos, this truck and that truck.”

Kiefer also said some construction workers harassed his wife, who assisted him with running the restaurant.

“There was one day I went out and had a confrontation with one of [the construction workers],” he said. “Thank God I controlled myself, because it would have been bad for me but worse for him.”

In July, he said, he was working by himself and moving some items when he ended up with two hernias.

“It just got to a point where there were too many factors to deal with it,” he said.

Kiefer put up the lease, and after a couple of deals failed to materialize due to concerns about the road work, according to Kiefer, eventually a new owner came along.

“It’s really a shame,” Kiefer said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s something where you set out with nothing but good intentions for all concerned, and we had really good response, all that catering. … But you take away six months of income, do the math, and there you go.”

Kiefer, 64, acknowledged the Main Street work wasn’t the only reason for the restaurant’s closing — his personal tragedies took away some of his willpower — but it played a big part.

“Let someone fresh, someone new take it on, where they haven’t been tainted by open/close, open/close,” he said. “I just couldn’t get on track with it. I had been through so much. Maybe a younger guy could have pushed through. But I did the best I could do. And I’m going to stay and help these [new owners] any way that I can. I don’t want to see someone else get hurt. I’m not going to give up until I know they’re good.”

Kiefer said he plans to continue consulting, training and doing inspections, and he has considered perhaps marketing his barbecue rubs and sauces. He might even make a return to running a restaurant at some point.

“Lone Wolf is not dead,” Kiefer said. “ He’s prowling the woods, looking for a new location.”

4 Comments

  1. Lone Wolf BBQ

    I want to Thank all former Customers I wish you all well! I thank you for your support and I hope some place some time we meet again. Thank you
    And a personal thanks to the Independent for getting out my inner feelings that I hope will lead to healing!

    • Walburga Sandwell

      Some town officials don’t know how to act and dr irunnwnto ring buson’t go by the laws. There is no excuse of construction workers acting like that. I would have hauled him into court. Some don’t have respect for people living or running a business where work is being done. Town officials better learn what respect for people in their town.

  2. Margie Wiggin

    so sorry for your losses, Dirk, and thank you so much for bringing Lone Wolf to Hopkinton! It was wonderful while it lasted! Wishing you all the best, Margie

  3. Tony

    Sad story and sorry for the losses, but honestly i am scratching my head at the excuses… BBQ place with no smoked meats, no consistent hours, no permanent or decent looking signage, a dirty exterior and ugly drapes in the windows. Was never going to work. Parking on main was never close to as bad as city parking. Muffin house had it worse. New pizza place seems to be doing great.

    Helpful move to mention the “rats” in the building, great advertising for the new tenant’s restaurant.

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