Virginia man opens restaurant, has eyes on other projects

ELKTON, Va. (AP) — Every morning, Rey Gotay goes to set up and open his newest business, Old 33 Beer & Burger Grill in Elkton, but the classic American-style eatery is far from Gotay’s first or last business endeavor. Operating and managing a business is his bread and butter, and it’s work he’s done since he was 19.

In his household, everyone was expected to start a business, so Gotay began a cleaning and maintenance corporation, Clean Sanity & Safety Protection, now Clean Art, after finishing his studies before he was 20 years old. With dreams and ambition alone fueling his work, Gotay continues to imagine bigger and better, and has his eyes set on Elkton as the perfect landscape for future developments.

“It’s beautiful. It’s right in the middle. Harrisonburg is growing towards Elkton and Massanutten is 15 minutes away,” he said.

Juicy pork riblets, steamy homemade chili and gooey banana foster are just a sample of all that’s available for order at Old 33. Wooden panels and the saffron-painted interior harmonize to create a cozy, Western-esque ambiance.

“I love food industry because people come for your product. Here, people drive an hour and a half because they heard it was good,” Gotay said.

On Google, Old 33 has 4.6 stars based on 42 reviews, and 47 people have averaged a 4.9-star review on Facebook. Gotay said the concept has proven a success due to the care in quality and consideration.

“It’s based on the experiences I’ve gathered over 10 years working in restaurants. … I’m more strict. I’m more careful. I’m more worried. I want everything to be perfect with Old 33,” Gotay said.

Before opening the family eatery in July, Gotay had accrued nearly 15 years experience working and has managed restaurants for multimillion-dollar corporations, including Holland American Princess in Alaska, Stevens Pass in Washington, and Massanutten Resort.

In his free moments, Gotay often sits in the shade with a tablet and designs the world he wishes to see come to fruition. He also often volunteers to assist corporate companies in management, but Gotay said his greatest passion is in growing food service.

“I’m happy with where I am right now, but I want to expand the restaurant business,” he said.

Mayor Josh Gooden met Gotay when Old 33 was still an incubated idea, waiting to hatch. Amid his mind filled with ideas already sketched out years in advance, Gotay’s established and planned contributions to the Elkton community are part of the foundation work leading up to a bigger, bright future in the town, according to Gooden.

“It’s just great to have Rey add to the mix of amazing entrepreneurs in our community, and it’s nice to know he’s there and wants to give back to the community and invest in our town,” Gooden said. “He’s thrown out a few ideas for different improvements to buildings downtown or parks.”

Gotay said he is a perfectionist in his work and is proudest of his establishment of Old 33 because it is a reflection of his years of experience as a business owner and corporate employee. Gooden said that attention to detail has not gone unnoticed.

“Just going above and beyond on projects that he’s already completed and going the extra mile to make sure things are done the best way they can,” Gooden said. “He’s just so talented.”

Chelsey Lam is a server at Old 33 and said she respects Gotay’s supportive nature as a boss, which lends to positive relationships across the entire work team.

“It’s nice working somewhere where you can be accepted how you are and always know someone is going to be there for you,” she said. “It is really great. I love everyone I work with. I have a great boss.”

Outside of Old 33, Gotay is part of the Akal Institute volunteer team for the Blue Ridge Projects of Shenandoah Wellness & Transitional Living Center, a therapy and rehabilitation center for athletes, veterans and trauma survivors.

Lam said Gotay always practices thorough planning and oversight over projects, so she has confidence the ideas Gotay describes for the future of downtown will draw a splendor of success.

“He definitely has a lot of motivation in seeing our town the best we can be, and he always wants us to be prospering and happy and healthy,” Lam said. “He really wants our community to stay up and running and stay happy.”