August 30, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Terry Torrence’s nickname is “Ter-Bear.” He used that bear twist when naming his business – Bear Crest Lounge-Family Restaurant in Albany – complete with a bear on his logo.
On July 1 he became owner of the former Hillcrest Family Restaurant & Stubby’s Tavern, purchasing it from Sandy Eggert. Torrence, a Maplewood resident, who was raised in Brooklyn Center, may not have any experience cooking for crowds but he is not afraid to wash and bus dishes during a busy buffet day. Just don’t ask him to prepare food – yet.
“I’ll leave the cooking up to the cooks,” he said Aug. 15 sitting in the dining room.
Thanks to his people personality, he loves visiting with customers, including regulars who, over the past month, he has gotten to know.
“Farmers come in for breakfast, a group from Kraft came in, and I talked with another group of woodworkers,” he said. “I love woodworking.”
With more than 40 years as a building contractor in Minnesota, his connection to Albany was a recent business project.
“I did the remodeling at Barbacoa (Smokehouse & Deli),” he said of the Albany business owned by David and Doris Belford.
It was thanks to David Belford that Torrence found out the Hillcrest was for sale.
“I told him, ‘Dude, I’m 67. I’m going to retire,’” Torrence said smiling.
Torrence took Belford’s advice and checked out the Hillcrest.
“I saw it as a good investment, and I’m all about investments,” he said.
Plus, while working in Albany, he got to know a few people and liked the small-town feel.
As a contractor, he has a vision for the upstairs dining and downstairs bar areas. He plans to utilize the downstairs, making it more of a banquet space.
“It’s a room that was not being used,” he said. “We could have dart tournaments, bean-bag and bands down there.”
He plans to freshen up the facility with new carpeting, blinds, paint and pictures in the dining areas where home cooked meals are served.
“I’d like to put up more pictures of Albany, the buildings, the people,” he said.
Torrence has applied for a grant from a Latino economic association. His wife, Marieta, who he married in 2016, is from Colombia and on June 14 earned her U.S. citizenship.
His good friend and mentor is Armando Campo, owner of Los OCampo Mexican Restaurant & Bar in the Twin Cities.
“Just talking to him has been a big help,” Torrence said.
So have his employees. He has hired more waitresses, cooks and bartenders.
“We work as a team here,” he said. “If dishes need washing, you wash dishes. The same thing if they are swamped upstairs, the bartender will help upstairs in the main dining room.”
While this is Torrence’s first endeavor as a restaurant owner, this father of four, grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of two, who call him “Pappa,” is up for the challenge – and excited about the future of Bear Crest Lounge-Family Restaurant.
“People have been happy I bought the place,” Torrence said. “This is part of small town Americana, right here.”