Morgan Hill restaurateur is “passing the baton” to the next generation of two women owners

Rosy’s at the Beach’s new owners Vanessa Bermudez and Pam Novak with Rosy Bergin in the back of the popular downtown seafood restaurant. The two women bought the eatery and officially took over near the end of August. Photo by Marty Cheek


By Calvin Nuttall

When Rosy Bergin opened her doors for business in December 1998, Morgan Hill was a quiet, sleepy place. A quarter century later, with the downtown area thriving and Rosy’s at the Beach one of its central cultural landmarks, she decided it’s time to hand the iconic restaurant over to new owners.

Pam Novak, 34, and Vanessa Bermudez, 40, took over the business starting in late August. The pair own and operate San Martin-based design firm First Impressions Home Staging. Taking over “Rosy’s” will be their first foray into restaurateurship.

“This is new for us, but we are very excited and we’re already loving it,” Bermudez said. “Rosy has made it easy for us, because she is guiding us on such a good path.”

With their shared background in interior design, Bermudez and Novak have plenty of ideas for the eatery. They acknowledge that Rosy’s already has a winning formula.

“Our goal is to continue the traditions that Rosy started,” Novak said. “A restaurant doesn’t last 25 years just because. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of things that people love. We’ll be adding things to the menu, just to keep it exciting, but we’re not getting rid of any of the favorites.”

The three women worked closely to ensure a smooth transfer. Bergin  is optimistic about the future of the restaurant and considers it to be in good hands.

“They’re hard workers, they have already been in business together for years. They’re not afraid to start something new. They’re smart, and they’re women,” she said. “Those are all good things. Rich and I were super excited that they wanted to take over the restaurant.”

While bringing new ideas incrementally into the eatery, Bermudez and Novak plan to keep the fundamentals of the popular seafood restaurant unchanged, including its name and staff. Diners may already notice a number of small updates, including a redesign of the bathrooms, new umbrellas on the patio, and reading lights on the indoor tables.

“Everything that we’re bringing in is going to be beach-themed. We’re definitely going to stick to that and even enhance it where possible,” Novak said. “That is our priority. It is relaxing and calm, you can easily have a conversation. The feeling of being at the beach is going to guide us.”

This strengthening of the beach theme can be seen in some of the partners’ recent additions to the dessert menu. These  include a passion mango cake, a ruby panna cotta, and coconut ice cream (served in a real coconut shell). The most popular treat is the “The Volcano,” a chocolate lava cake served over dry ice.

“We’re going to be adding some chandeliers and changing the look to make it a little bit more modern,” Novak said. “With our design firm, our look is very sleek and modern. That is something we have gone back and forth on — should we or should we not? Because people love Rosy’s the way it is already, but I know with our design background that we could make something really nice. Every day I’m fighting that.”

Known for its calm, casual beach vibe and reliable service, Rosy’s, as it is called by its fans, was established with the goal of providing families with an experience that is equal parts fine dining and kid-friendly, Bergin said.

“We wanted to appeal to that young, professional family who liked fine wines and good food but couldn’t always bring their kids out to fancy restaurants,” she said. “We wanted those families to feel comfortable. That’s why we put the paper and crayons on the tables, to make the kids feel at home.”

The decision to retire and sell the restaurant wasn’t an easy one, Bergin said. A self-described workaholic, she had difficulty tearing herself away. And even when she finally felt ready, the COVID-19 pandemic halted her plans for several years.

“We love the place, and we wanted to keep it going,” Bergin said. “But we also wanted to move on to other things. My husband (Rich) said, ‘How much longer do you want to work, Rosy?’ Well, I love working, so it took me a while to decide that it was time.”

Though they may be stepping away from running Rosy’s, Bergin and Rich won’t be going far, she said. They plan to devote more time to their San Martin winery Little Uvas Vineyards (aka LUV).

“We are rooted,” she said. “The winery takes up some of our time, but it’s not like we’re leaving the restaurant business to go into the wine business. It will just be nice not to be working two jobs.”

To safeguard the future of the restaurant, Bergin searched carefully for a broker who would connect her with the right kind of buyer.

“We really wanted the restaurant to continue,” she said. “The entity itself is good, but we wanted to step away. We thought people would understand this. Some of the brokers said, ‘Well you know, when you sell a restaurant, people take it and do their own things.’ But, when you take over such a successful business, why would you start that over? Luckily, we met these two ladies.”

Despite “passing the baton,” Rosy said she and Rich will be found at the restaurant on occasion, now as fellow diners.

“Of course we’ll still come in,” she said. “It’s the best restaurant in town! The kitchen staff has been here for years, and they are just so good. We have always stayed in tune with what people want, and these ladies are doing the same thing. They are meeting our customers and listening to them — that makes your job really easy.”

Calvin Nuttall is a Morgan Hill-based freelance reporter and columnist.