Rey Gotay, of Elkton, doesn’t just see “what is.” He sees “what could be.”
When a trailer in the Village of the Valley shopping center, near Massanutten Resort, became available, Gotay said he decided to open not one — but two — restaurants in the shopping center, which also contains BrewHaha Brewing Co.
The Bagel Shack and Thirsty’s Burgers both opened in Village of the Valley in mid-April, augmenting the food options for visitors to Massanutten and locals. The Bagel Shack features bagel sandwiches made with Mr. J’s Bagels, along with Route 11 chips and bottled drinks. Thirsty’s Burgers offers craft Angus beef hamburgers, Beyond Meat burgers, fries and more.
“It’s a great location. This Village of the Valley has a lot of potential as well. I see bringing live music to the property, which will help the brewery,” Gotay said. “It’s a great outdoor [spot].”
Both restaurants have branding and a concept created by Gotay, who said he’s passionate about design, restaurants and development.
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Gotay said he became passionate about restaurants after moving to the U.S., where he worked in kitchens and bars in nature preserves around the country. It was in Skyland’s Pollock Dining Room in Shenandoah National Park that he met his wife, Katie.
“I created an ‘Image and Suggestion Report by Rey Gotay,’” Gotay said, pulling up a document on his phone. “I put it in a folder and gave it to [the Pollock Dining Room].
He opened Old 33 Beer and Burger Grill during the pandemic. That restaurant features a strong social media presence highlighting mixed drinks Gotay developed from years working in bars, he said.
“I managed bars. That’s what I did in Washington state and Massanutten,” Gotay said. “I’ve been related to the bar industry as well. We noticed that every time we posted a new beverage on our Facebook [we got] a lot of followers. It attracts a lot of attention.”
Thirsty’s Burgers is a fast-casual outdoor spot offering a selection of craft burgers. One sandwich, called The Burg, includes an Angus beef patty, fried egg, cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and house sauce on a Mr. J’s Bagel.
Katie Gotay came up with the menu for The Bagel Shack, which includes a specialty bagel with freshly grilled shrimp, basil pesto, goat cheese and balsamic glaze on choice of bread or bagel. Customers at the Bagel Shack said they were excited to have a way to get Mr. J’s without having to drive all the way to Harrisonburg.
Gotay said he has big plans for the future. He’s awaiting a license to offer beer and wine and hopefully mixed drinks at Thirsty’s Burgers and to extend the roof over the dining area.
“Creating. That’s where you’re actually putting all of your knowledge in,” Gotay said. “Running it, it’s hard. Because it’s like this is a dream, we made it. But then it’s let’s run it, let’s manage it.”
Additionally, he hopes to open more locations of this restaurant and try out other new ideas for restaurants and event venues locally.
“I always like to make things better. I always like to improve. I always like design things and stuff,” Gotay said. “It’s not a rush. I just see a lot of potential. All this area is going to grow.”