Black Sheep owner Susan Chester and Jon Merripen share a laugh Tuesday during the Fourth of July Parade in Ashland. Merripen and his wife, Clarinda, will take over the English-themed restaurant later this month. [John Darling / For the Mail Tribune]

Black Sheep will remain open

Ashland’s Fourth of July parade contained something unexpected — a float with the present and future owners of Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, announcing the popular spot will not be closing.

The pub has been sold to Clarinda and Jon Merripen, new arrivals in Ashland and refugees from the stress and bustle of Silicon Valley. They pledge to keep Black Sheep a British-style pub, with the same chef and staff, the same slogan, “Where you belong,” and mostly the same menu and decor — maybe with a taste of British Invasion vibe of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, they say.

Jon was a network engineer, doing startups for 25 years, while Clarinda was a video-game consultant, helping companies with legal and financial challenges and deciding future moves. She’s the one with the restaurant chops, having grown up in New England, where her father ran a restaurant at a ski resort and her mother operated a combo movie theater, bar and restaurant.

“We were looking for a place to land, searching from San Diego to Seattle,” she says. “When we found Ashland, we absolutely fell in love with it. It fit who we are. This was perfect. There is such a sense of community already, and we felt welcomed. It’s a little wild and wacky, with wonderful people.”

The couple read a May 11 article about the expected closure of the Black Sheep, decided to check it out with a dinner and, says Clarinda, had a “this is it” moment.

“It felt amazing,” she says. “It was the first business opportunity in a long time that feels like us. Silicon Valley sucks a lot of life out of you. We were eager to be back in the heart of things.”

Jon adds, “It’s a relief to have a shot at saving a business. It’s nice to have that chance.”

— Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at

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