Michael Labrie – River House Restaurant
Description of business: The River House Restaurant offers casual waterfront dining in the heart of Portsmouth with sweeping views of the Piscataqua River.
Name: Michael LabrieCompany: River House Restaurant
This is River House’s 10th season as title sponsor of PPAF’s summer concert series! What initially made you want to support the Festival?
Prescott Park has been an important part of growing up in Portsmouth for myself and my siblings. My Grandmother, Rose Labrie, was the cofounder of the Prescott Park Children’s Art Festival which preceded the current arts festival. All of her nine grandchildren would be involved in the events including art contests, dance recitals and musical performances. I spent many summers with her at Prescott Park and Strawbery Banke where she volunteered and painted. We spent a lot of time exploring the flower gardens and the historic buildings. I especially liked to explore the antique ship models which were displayed in Sheafe’s Warehouse and to enjoy sour pickles and penny candy at The Dunaway General Store where Mombo’s is now located. When we opened The River House, it seemed obvious to my brother, Peter and I that we would support the festival in a significant way.
What’s the importance to the community of an organization like PPAF?
PPAF cannot be separated from the beautiful grounds and waterfront location that it sits on. Prescott Park is a beautiful gem that our city cherishes. It gives residents and visitors alike the opportunity to stroll along the riverfront, taking in the sights and smells of the sea air and river traffic. From the Park, one can see the still living history that helped to build our city including the fishing boats docked on Pierce Island and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard which helped to secure the sovereignty of our nation. As a music venue, it is unparalleled. If you haven’t sat among hundreds or thousands of other music lovers on a warm summer evening with a salty breeze wafting through, listening to perfectly curated music, experiencing what can only be described as magical, then you have not experienced the best that Portsmouth has to offer. Many in attendance pay nothing. Others pay what they can afford. It’s a blessing to families and to businesses who benefit from this weekly communal occurrence.
How does your business benefit from partnering with a community facing organization like PPAF?
My brother, Peter and I discovered early in our restaurant careers that supporting our community through its arts and cultural organizations was good business. It is also very satisfying. From the beginning of this important partnership, we have been blessed to receive the gratitude of those who appreciate our support. They seek us out when they are at the River House to shake our hand and to thank us. It’s important that a business that thrives in a community, gives back to that community. It allows some who may be less fortunate to grow as deeper individuals in their ability to access arts and music. It strengthens all of us.
What’s your earliest recollection of attending a PPAF event? What’s your favorite PPAF memory/event?
I remember playing “Greensleeves” on my trombone on the original 12’ x 20’ stage which was located in the field near Sheafe’s Warehouse. A dance recital had just finished and only about 8 people remained to listen to me. I was about 11 years old and very nervous. I believe that was my one and only public musical performance, however, I was proud of myself for actually doing it.
What’s on the horizon for River House? Any new things your customers can expect as summer heats up?
The River House will continue to serve some of the best seafood and American grill in the city. Our guests will be treated like family as they enjoy their food and drinks overlooking the tugboats and the heart of the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River. There are exciting projects in the pipeline, both at River House at 53 Bow Street and at 135 Congress Street. We will be announcing more in the coming months.