Copper Door/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories
The Remarkable Story Behind the Copper Door Restaurant in
Bedford and Salem, N.H.
inside look at one of New Hampshire's finest, most beautiful restaurants
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Copper Door, Bedford.
The Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford and Salem, N.H., goes beyond elemental in
mission to offer a fine dining experience for all walks of life to
At the flagship Bedford location, the strip mall and modern residential setting
outside the restaurant might look familiar, but
that's where the recognizable scenes end. The arched copper-clad
door, costing approximately $20K, sets a significant, appropriate
Copper Door at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford.
The restaurant magic continues beyond the door,
leading into a beautiful rustic New Hampshire dining room and bar
setting that, for many, creates a love
at first sight scenario.
Bar and dining room section with fireplace.
New Hampshire-style post and beam vaulted ceilings, wood floors, a large stone
fireplace, local art, spacious dining rooms and bar area and comfortable nooks
with sofas lend a cozy, modern-meets-traditional New Hampshire vibe.
"It's a memorable name that becomes more memorable when touching the
door," said Tom Boucher, CEO and Owner of the Copper Door. "The name
inviting and the post and beam look
gives it that New Hampshire feel."
Nice touches of farmhouse-like design and decor make one feel right at
Beautiful decor and design flourishes at the Copper Door.
The palladium windows lend a sunny, open feel
to the dining rooms.
Main dining room at the Copper Door.
Although the Copper Door is a large-sized restaurant, it feels small
and intimate from virtually every angle. Case-in-point: this nook to
the left of the entrance...
Enjoying a nice meal in a living room-type setting.
The Copper Door also goes beyond just booths and tables with some areas
of the restaurant that look like someone's ultra cozy living
room at home...
Sofa off the dining room area at the Copper Door in Bedford.
Fine Food and Drink Without the Pretentiousness
Open kitchen at the Copper Door.
There's a fine line between chain restaurant food, fine
dining cuisine and a restaurant experience that is too casual. Too many
get confused -- not knowing their role or overall mission -- and end up
trying to please everyone. Often, this is a business recipe for
disaster, although many survive on mediocrity at the sake of
On the other hand, the Copper Door's laser focus business mission, a
well-chosen staff including four managers onsite for the majority of
business hours, and a studied approach to locally sourcing and creating
delicious cuisine helps elevate this restaurant far beyond the
norm. First, the Copper Door sources from 12 local New England farms, gets its beef from selected ranchers in the Midwest and hand cut by a team of in house butchers, fresh seafood constantly brought in from Boston and desserts made in-house.
Add an impressive craft beer and whiskey list, creative cocktails, and
varieties of wine (they earned a "Wine Spectator Award of Excellence"
for seven years), and the foundation is there for a wonderful dining
experience for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
Wine cabinet at the Copper Door in Bedford.
"We are not too over the top -- like serving wild game meat," said
Boucher, 54. "We
are New Hampshire. This is not Boston. We wanted a more approachable
type of food. We do offer New American food. It's like comfort foods
turned up a notch."
A nice way to start off the experience is with some fresh out-of-the-oven monkey bread. This is not your basic typical home
kitchen version as herbs, cheese, butter, and a salty and sweet taste
create a one-of-a-kind bread.
The Copper Door also serves a different version of unsweetened
raspberry ice tea as it's made at the table -- a hot pot of water to
steep the tea. a pitcher of ice to cool things down, and a tall
glass to enjoy the tasty drink. Delicious and refreshing!
A nice twist to the typical unsweetened iced tea.
The Five Onion Gratinee stands as a customer favorite before a meal or
as a standalone with its caramelized onion, thyme, sherry, Swiss
Cheese, provolone, and brioche crouton.
"I love the onion soup," said Monika Flagg, a regular at the Copper
Door in Bedford. "I work in the area and it's always nice to come here
Five Onion Gratinee. Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.
A Green Goddess Salad also makes for a healthy precursor to the
main meal. It is made with baby spinach, arugula, green pea, cucumber,
shaved celery, asparagus, avocado, goat cheese, pistachio and Green
Goddess dressing. Some prefer to make it the primary meal.
Green Goddess Salad. Photo credit: the Copper Door.
Highly recommended for a main course is the tender, flavorful and amply
planked salmon over warm quinoa, feta cheese, tomatoes and asparagus. It
is cooked on a wooden plank at 650 degrees.
Cedar planked salmon.
The buttermilk fried chicken is one of the most popular dishes with
juicy fried chicken, roasted garlic smashed potato, pancetta asparagus
and roasted chicken gravy.
Fried chicken from the Copper Door. Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.
The Pan Seared Halibut Vierge has corn crab hash, fingering potato,
pearl onion, roasted red peppers and sweet compound butter.
Halibut dinner from the Copper Door. Photo credit: the Copper Door.
The mouthwatering Cowboy Burger features brioche, bibb lettuce (from
Donabedian Farms in Salem, N.H.), tomato, applewood smoked bacon,
chipotle, onion straws, pepper jack cheese and house fries.
Cowboy burger. Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.
Restaurants and take out joints that
specialize in pizza and flatbreads usually serve the best versions, but the
Copper Door often surpasses those places. The combination of fresh
tomato, cheese, herbs, and abundant toppings ranks right up there with
Pizza from the Copper Door. Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.
Midwest sourced and Copper Door created, the New York strip steak also
serves as a local favorite.
New York strip steak. Photo credit: Copper Door
The desserts are literally and figuratively sweet, including the homemade chocolate peanut butter
cheesecake with peanut butter, chocolate cookie crust, dark chocolate
ganache and peanut butter sauce.
Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake from the Copper Door. Photo source: Copper Door Facebook fan page.
For adults 21+, the martini and cupcake combo makes things that
much sweeter. Each month brings a new combo.
Cupcake and drink pairing for the adults.
"It is always so nice coming here," commented Jennifer Delisle. "It is kind
of like the hub of Bedford for restaurants. I like the bacon
wrapped meatloaf the best!"
The Copper Door also offers a "gluten intolerant menu"
snacks, soups and salads, chicken, steak and seafood dinners, and a
Chocolate Sin Cake with dense fudge-like cake and cranberry compote.
"Having Celiac's Disease and other allergies, going out to eat is a
challenge," said Angelica Basile, a New Hampshire native now living in
Bremerton, Wash. "The Copper Door was one of the most accommodating
restaurants I’ve ever been to. They treated me like a person, attending
to my needs rather than an inconvenience with all of my specifications."
Why Tom Boucher Said "CU Later" to His Previous Career Track
Please Pardon the Copper Pun)
Tom Boucher, CEO and owner of the Copper Door. Photo credit: the Copper Door.
Tom once studied chemistry in college but, ironically,
never found complete career chemistry
until opening the Copper Door.
He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1987
from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., and then found
himself on a full scholarship to
Villanova University in Philadelphia,
months later at Villanova, however, Boucher realized there was no scientific
validation behind his ambitions to continue in the field.
Villanova and soon took what he thought was an interim job waiting
tables at T-BONES in Hudson, N.H. Boucher soon found out, however, that
his employment at T-BONES was anything but a dead-end job.
"A manager there suggested I become kitchen manager," said Boucher, a
Nashua, N.H. native now living in Bedford.
"That's where it kind of all began. I loved it, although I didn't have
In a relatively short amount of time, Boucher worked tirelessly at
virtually every job in the field, leading to restaurant
ownership. His hard work and passion for the business paid off,
becoming founding partner of Cactus Jack's (Laconia) in 2007. He then took on additional
roles as director of marketing and director of operations for
T-BONES (Bedford, Derry, Hudson, Laconia and Salem), Cactus Jack's and CJ's Great West Grill (Manchester). Tom became CEO of Great NH Restaurants in 2004 and he and his partners opened Copper Door in Bedford in 2011. Finding great success there, the Salem Copper Door opened in 2017.
Dining scene at the Copper Door, Salem, N.H. Photo source: Great NH Restaurants.
Representing New Hampshire as a board member in the National
Restaurant Association, Tom traveled
with his wife, Dana, for many years to meetings where they loved
discovering restaurants that combined a fine dining experience with an
absence of stuffiness. Based on the trend-setting restaurants they
experienced, Tom and
Dana came up with their own ideas on how to start their own dining
establishment. They took copious notes and constantly communicated with
each other on a future restaurant.
Dana, a freelance artist (BreathOfFreshArt.com), created
the interior design for the Copper Door while CFO and owner Mark Fenske brought his
expertise in the fields of construction, equipment needs and
architectural design to potentiate the vision. With 30 years of
experience at T-BONES and Cactus Jack's, Chief of Restaurant Operations
and Owner Dan Fraser completed the grand concept with his considerable
skill set in the culinary and operations fields.
Dana Boucher. Photo credit: the Copper Door.
Dana's art work can be seen in the restaurant, thus adding a
wonderful touch of regional scenes to the Copper Door.
Farmscape scene created by Dana Boucher.
An example of Dana's art work near the bar.
"I have one of her pieces of art work in my house!" said
Delisle. "She is very talented."
Generosity That Reflects The New Hampshire Spirit
The ambitions and human decency within Tom
extends far beyond the Copper Door. He is CEO
NH Restaurants, Inc., which also oversees T-BONES,
Cactus Jack's, CJ's Great West Grill and a commissary
that delivers food to the restaurants, as well as the philanthropic
presence of FEEDNH.org.
Additionally, Great NH Restaurants plans to open the Bull & Bear
Kitchen and Sports Bar in Bedford around Thanksgiving 2019.
Since 1984, Great NH Restaurants, Inc has donated over $1,250,000
in gift certificates to thousands of non-profits throughout New
Hampshire. They created FEEDNH.org in 2014 to provide funding,
food and volunteer services to meet the needs of New Hampshire- based non-profits
benefiting families, the elderly, education and the disadvantaged,
according to the Great NH web site. Since its inception, FEEDNH.org has
donated over $350,000.
Great NH Restaurants, including the Copper Door, have left no stone
unturned when it comes to generosity. Look at what they accomplished
$1,711, 541 in total promotional discounts
$237,784 raised to help those in need through FeedNH.org
$117,945 in total gift card donations
$11,399 in military discounts
Additionally, Great NH Restaurants has instituted a Random
Acts of Kindness initiative with, for starters, free desserts,
appetizers, meals and other "surprises" at all locations. Their
generosity to customers include cancer survivors and children
facing illness to those who have vital, noble roles in our society like
the military and teachers.
I usually don't include a personal recommendation as a
standalone section within an article, but, in this case,
I feel strongly compelled to do so with the Copper Door.
Something felt so different seeing that magnificent Copper
Door and then walking into one of the most beautifully designed
restaurants I have ever seen. Once at the Bedford restaurant, I
witnessed the close-knit community amongst owner, managers and staff at
they met to talk about "hot button issues" and menu specials. They
seemed to all get along beautifully with an owner that seemed more like
a favorite uncle than a restaurant owner (Tom politely left this photo
opportunity below to be interviewed by me).
Staff meeting at the Copper Door.
I later learned that more than 80 percent of the staff at Great NH
Restaurants have been employed at the various locations for 10
or more years. That says a lot about employee satisfaction in a field that usually yields a large turnover. I did meet
one employee who was about to leave, but it was strictly for pursuing
degree in another field. Before she revealed her career plans, the young woman expressed how happy she has been working at the Copper
Door. She was genuine, as her words came to life through enthusiasm.
What's more, the staff exuded a collectively pleasant and professional
demeanor that, as we know, doesn't always happen when dining out.
Everything ran so smoothly -- no surprise, given the presence of an
onsite owner (which is the case at all Great NH Restaurants)
and a constant management oversight that seems more humane and assertive than
overbearing and aggressive.
"I ran a kitchen for 10 years, so I know what it's like to work every
job and am sensitive to that," said Boucher. "The difference from how
restaurants were run 25 years ago compared to how we run a restaurant
now is 10-fold better. There's so much better support now. We also
take care of things in house, such as having our own HVAC guy and our
own graphic and web design."
Throughout the restaurant, you can see staff exhibiting pride whether
it's in their job descriptions of not. Here, manager and host Amber
Osgood could be seen cleaning a door in between seating customers and
helping oversee aspects of restaurant operations...
Of course, the beauty of this restaurant and the staff that makes
all so pleasant would all be for naught if the food wasn't good. As a
suburban Boston resident, I have been to many highly regarded city
restaurants. The Copper Door meets or exceeds the best Boston area fine
dining restaurants I have been to, and, in some cases, goes well
beyond. Plus, where can you find ample parking in Boston? I also think
the Copper Door is also less uptight than many city restaurants whether
it be the innate more laid back, friendliness of the region or a
restaurant owner that sets a more enjoyable tone for managers, staff
and customers. You don't have to speak quietly here, overspend on
upscale food or dress up in expensive formal clothing (you can if you
want, though). This is a clearly restaurant for everyone to enjoy.
A strong sense of community exists at the Copper Door.
I am generally not a fan of restaurants that are part of a larger
group. Something almost always seems to get watered down from the
original concept to the point where the expansion can result in becoming more like a national
chain. The Copper Door, on the other hand, has impressively avoided that
industry pratfall, clearly because of pride of ownership and a clear
"Having a second Copper Door has worked well," said Boucher. "It is far
enough away (from the Bedford location) so it does not cannibalize this
I had never met Tom Boucher before prior to this visit but, within
minutes, fully understood what he has done with the Copper Door. He is a great communicator. Also,
within a few minutes, we became more comfortable talking with each other,
to the point of which I felt I had known him for a long time. Consider
his authenticity and determination to succeed intangibles to clearly benefit
customers and staff.
Tom and the group who bought into the Copper Door concept spared no
expense in creating these restaurants (including Tom's dad and three
brothers). The Bedford location cost $4.5 million to open, Salem $6
Copper Door Restaurant, Salem, N.H. Photo source: Great NH Restaurants web site.
"You want to make money, you have to spend a lot of money," said Tom
with a slight laugh.
To take that chance by spending so much was an enormous risk, knowing that the
majority of restaurants fail within a few years. In fact, the Bedford
opening around Christmas of 2011 raised some initial concerns.
"It was so busy and we did not execute well for three months," said
Tom. "The staff was new to working in the building and we didn't
staff enough. We learned some valuable lessons. In Salem, we staffed
well and we were much more ready."
Like copper having high conductivity as an element on the periodic
table, the Copper Door possesses an electric presence on the New
Hampshire restaurant scene that has brought in a current and flow of
new and regular customers every day. Many locals come here more than
once a week and travelers frequently discover this gem of a restaurant
driving to or from destinations like the White Mountains, Lakes Region,
Monadnock Region and Boston.
Inviting scene at the Copper Door in Bedford.
"I remember one time telling my Dad when I was in college, 'You know, I could picture owning a restaurant.’ It’s just one of those things I’ll never forget."
Truer words couldn't have been spoken. Kudos to this would-be chemist
for finding all the right solutions to a fostering a positive career!
"I am glad I chose this career and would only change one thing if I had
to do it all over again," said Tom. "I would have majored in business
rather than chemistry. Otherwise, I'd do it all over again. I love what
I am doing and so grateful for the people that surround me."
Copper Door Restaurant Locations
Bedford: 15 Leavy Drive, Bedford NH. Tel. 603-488-2677.
Salem: 41 South Broadway, Salem, NH. Tel. 603-458-2033.
Web site: http://www.copperdoorrestaurant.com
Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/CopperDoor
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/copperdoornh/
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