“Boss babes” chase their dreams in Summersville.
When a group of “boss babes” put their minds to something, you can bank on it happening. In this case, it’s an actual restored bank that has been transformed into The Vault on Main, a casually elegant restaurant on Main Street in Summersville.
After toying around with buying a vacation home in West Virginia, North Carolina native Marian Keen and her West Virginia–born husband moved here instead. And after later meeting her now business partner, Marnie Moose, that duo toyed with a different idea—opening a local restaurant in a cute little historic building someday.
That “someday” came when a friend called Keen saying she’d found the perfect spot for a restaurant. But, she cautioned, it was anything but little. It was the decidedly-not-small, three-story, towering stone building that was the former Nicholas County Bank.
And while the stately building had housed a restaurant 20 years ago, it had fallen into disrepair since. But to Keen, its potential was priceless.
“I called to ask if I could rent the building,” Keen says. “They were like, no, but you can buy it.” So she did, making an offer on the spot, sight unseen. Talk about a leap of faith.
It was in rough shape, but they rolled up their sleeves and dug in, going from renovation to opening in just a few months. The Vault on Main debuted in December 2020, originally as a more casual bistro. On a whim one night a month later, they offered high-quality steaks as a special and sold out the entire night’s allotment in 30 minutes.
“We were, like, whoa,” Keen says. “That was a wake-up call that there was a demand here for nicer, higher-quality food befitting the building’s grandeur. We flipped the switch after that and became more of a fine-dining restaurant, although we’ll always have the casual pub fare and flatbreads that a lot of people want.”
That switch translated into a mouth-watering menu of French-inspired dishes, pastas, and local grass-fed steaks. It was created by Chef Elizabeth “Libby” Nolle, whose time traveling through Europe and cooking at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, Whistle Punk Grill & Taphouse in Richwood, and Craft Kings in Mt. Nebo helped flavor elevated dishes fused with Appalachian flair.
“As soon as I heard about The Vault opening, I reached out and told them I wanted to be a part of it,” Nolle says. “We had a real girl-power moment that day, and I knew this was the right place for me.”
On her menu you’ll find fresh charcuterie boards, farm-to-table salads, and house-made pastas along with treasures like Webster County Spillman Mountain Farm Products steaks; Smothered Grilled Chicken Florentine with sauteed spinach, sun dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, and pesto gnocchi; and Pasta Allo Scoglio with clams, mussels, shrimp, garlic, and white wine.
Or maybe you’ll try one of Nolle’s favorites: Les Moules Frites with mussels and French fries in a garlic and white wine broth is a “nostalgia dish” from her time in Europe, and the thick-cut rosemary and apple cider–brined pork chop is her top recommendation for everyone to try.
And after savoring the last bite of your meal, you can mosey on down to the speakeasy.
You heard that right, and it’s the real deal. The partners traveled to the bars of New Orleans to create the authentic Savings & Trust Speakeasy—passcode required and all—featuring swanky cocktails and Cajun-inspired menu items like crawfish etouffee, alligator tacos, and more.
“That’s really been my baby,” Keen adds, “and it’s taken off like wildfire.”
While it’s smoother sailing now, they endured a tough first year where pretty much everything that could go wrong did. That stress eventually forced them to close for six weeks, but boss babes aren’t usually down and out for very long. After taking time to catch their collective breath, they reopened in September 2021 and have been rocking ever since. “We really went into this thing with high hopes and a lot of faith,” Keen says, reflecting on the journey. “But every time one door closed, another opened. Once we realized God had our backs, we were all in.”
They’re all in not only to see The Vault succeed, but also for women themselves: Desserts come from a local female pastry chef. Breads come from an addiction recovery program called Fruits of Labor in Rainelle, and they’ve hired women from that program to help them get back on their feet.
“That’s one of my proudest moments so far,” Keen says. “We took in a woman who had lost her kids and home, we trained her to work in the kitchen and started paying her a salary. She was eventually able to turn her life around, spread her wings, and fly from the nest, finding a place to live and getting her kids back.”
She adds that, of the 19 employees they now have, only three are men.
“We’re not sexist, I swear,” she says, with a laugh. “We just really love lifting up other women to make them boss babes, too.”
READ MORE ARTICLES FROM WV LIVING’S SUMMER 2022 ISSUE
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