Moog’s Joint opens in Johnson


Rebecca Flieder

Moogs’ Joint, complete with performance stage

Tom Moog has spent the last eight years “passionately trying to make Moogs’s in Morrisville what it is today.” He’s hosted benefits for members of the community and helped get the Oxbow Park recognised so to start the music festival there. Now, he says, he wants to focus his cuisine and philanthropy in Johnson.

This summer, Moog bought the building on Route 15 that once held the Red Baron, then the Long Trail Tavern, then the Landmark, and finally the now-defunct Hogback Snacks. After much preparation, Moog’s Joint, a full restaurant and bar, opened less than a month ago.

“All that stuff I did in Morrisville, I want to keep it right there,” Moog said. “Ultimately, the decision to open this restaurant is not just the history of this place and the fact that I couldn’t stand to see another business empty in Johnson, but I live here in Johnson, too. I’ve lived here for 15 years and I have a seven year old son named Thomas. He’s in Johnson Elementary. I realized that what I really need to do as a Johnson resident and a father is to spend more time in my own town which I love so much.”

Moog’s intent in opening the new joint is to establish a connection. “This town is so beautiful,” he said. “I need to know the town administrators and the select board, and every business in town, everyone who puts their heart and soul into Johnson. I want to be here with them. That’s what this new place is all about.”

There’s a lot going on at Moog’s Joint, where the parking lot has been packed from day one. “I treat this place like a greeting place for everyone, of all ages,” said Moog. “We have a full service restaurant and a full service bar. We are gonna add some lighter fare here, too. Moog’s Joint is here not only for college students but also for professors and staff, as well as everybody that works so hard at that university. We’re open for the residents around here and the surrounding towns.”

Moog’s venue in the back will offer live music and plenty of entertainment. “I plan on having music and events here all the time, every day if I can,” Moog said. “We have a house piano now that sounds amazing! I welcome any piano player from the university to come on in and play.”

“Every Monday my friend and local musician Abby Sherman is going to be playing live music here from 7:00 to 10:00. At our open mic on Tuesday nights, George is really good about giving everyone stage time. Nobody’s going to judge you here,” said Moog. “We have great and beginner players, and all anyone’s going to do here is help each other out. If you’re a musician or you’re interested in music, come bring your ears to listen. Come on down and play.”

Moog also mentioned the possibility of students coming to the Joint for a trivia night. “If we had a group from the university come and host trivia night,” he said, “that would be amazing.”

“I have constant things spinning in my head,” said Moog. “Benefits and things to help the town of Johnson. I want to make sure there are no students out there who can’t afford to do something. We’re gonna figure out how to fix it. Through music, I am able to fundraise because that’s what I do.”

When asked about the building’s long history and perceived “curse,” where businesses seem unable to survive in the Route 15 locale, Moog smiled. “There’s something about this location that’s magic. I can feel it. I feel it, I welcome it, and I’m so happy to be here. People may see some of the history of some things you might not want to remember. We have to remember that this happens everywhere in our lives. The thing about this building is that people really need to remember the wonderful things that have happened here: The people that have met each other here and the good times they had. The history in this building is incredible.”

“We welcomed our first weary Long Trail hiker three nights ago,” said Moog. “His name was Matt. He showed up at our front door with a backpack and asked me where he could find a hotel or a campground nearby because his feet were hurting. I showed him to the lower primitive campsite we have by the river on the property. He set up his tent down there and he came back up, had a big ole plate of pasta, some Shed Mountain Ales and a big smile on his face. He called his mom and told her he was in Vermont. He’d been hiking for days and couldn’t believe the kindness that Vermonters had showed him.”

Moog also mentioned his gratitude to the “Lamoille River people” who cleared the overgrown path at the back of the property, so that Johnson residents can begin to fish and launch canoes into the Lamoille river.

“They put the canoe signs up today,” he said. “They undug the steps on the other side of the field so you can launch canoes and fish. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

While business has been booming, Moog recognized that there are those in town for whom a night out can be a strain on the wallet. “As far as students are concerned, I know they’re on a budget,” he said. “I can tell you that we have the most amazing burger in town and some amazing sandwiches. A few snacks already and some inexpensive beers. We can get you out of here for under twenty dollars full and happy. We will expand on that, but just give us some time.”

“What I’m trying to do,” he said, “is appeal to everybody in this town. I know students work so hard and they’re far from home. Give me some time. Come in and say hello. I want to meet every single one of you. I want to find out what you like and what I can do for you here at my place.”

Moog also mentioned that the process of opening the new store has been challenging, but rewarding. “Every single day I come across something that surprises me,” he said. “I’m still finding things in the building I didn’t know I had. As soon as I opened up this business I saw so many people I hadn’t seen in so long. Regardless, though, the first couple days have been full of laughter, stories. Exactly what I want this place to be.”

Moog’s Joint is open every day of the week starting at 3 p.m.