Tucked away in Augusta, Maine you will find not only beautiful scenery and tight-knit neighborhoods, but a small restaurant called The Red Barn. The business serves delicious fried fish and chicken, among other items, and serves up a large dose of kindness and community along with it. The company is owned by Laura Benedict, 51, a person living in long-term recovery from alcoholism.
Having owned the restaurant for over 30 years, Benedict has deep pride in the company’s mission. A company known for its’ philanthropy, community, and all around feeling of inclusivity are what have made the restaurant the success story it is today. She shares, however, that the businesses recent successes and recognition for extravagant philanthropy have multiplied exponentially after she got sober and found recovery.
Addiction, the disease that does nothing but steal the lives of those afflicted, is something that Benedict’s family had struggled with for generations. She adds that before she got sober, there wasn’t a night in 31-years that she didn’t take a drink.
Before Benedict got sober, she describes doing everything she could to look good on the outside and to build her pride – giving money she didn’t have and giving off the appearance that she was successful and doing well. She describes this period of life as “having made every million-dollar mistake in the book.” Before recovery, Benedict says it was all about her.
But that all changed on December 12, 2014 when she decided to ask for help and get sober.
Benedict had her moment of clarity – the point of tension where something had to give, and that was honest, transparency and acceptance with herself. After rehab and plugging into both her local community and recovery community, she says that she’s received immense support. And it was ultimately that love and support that began to transform her business.
Within the first 9-10 months after getting sober and finding recovery, her business was paying off debts, getting out of near-bankruptcy and even hit $4 million in revenue in 2015. Now, she’s on track to hit $5 million in revenue, employs 38 staff and sees as many as 4,000 customers per day in peak season.
Benedict shares that these successes were about doing the right thing – getting transparent with her customers, with herself, and creating a transparent, honest environment through her business at The Red Barn in return.
Now, Benedict says recovery has given her the ability to give and to love on people with no agenda. “It’s not about me,” Benedict says, “it’s about all of these people and making their days better.”
Through an outward focus on her customers, with a special emphasis on often-forgotten populations like veterans and the elderly, customers have flocked to The Red Barn as a business where they find both great food and a welcoming atmosphere. The Red Barn community is made up of local citizens and those who travel hours to come and dine at the restaurant – all because of the environment created that was radically transformed through Benedict’s recovery.
For other entrepreneurs and people struggling, Benedict says to remember that “there’s always hope, even if you don’t feel it. It will spring up when you don’t know it.” Beyond having hope, she reminds those struggling to be vulnerable because in asking for help and admitting shortcomings is where they will find their strength.
For Benedict, this strength has been found in her recovery and in the community created at The Red Barn. And through this community, there is left a beautiful story of recovery, a lesson of transparent entrepreneurship, and a thriving business that has grown in the hearts of the Augusta community.
To help others like Benedict recovering from addiction and alcoholism, please consider giving a gift to More Than An Addict in honor of National Recovery Month this September. Your philanthropy will be used towards the continual development and administration of scholarship and entrepreneurial programs to invest in the lives of the recovery community and their next chapters in life.