Burdett building comes down for expansion
BURDETT--A long-vacant pair of buildings that long ago served as Burdett's post office, a furniture store and casket warehouse, later an office building and apartments, came down the first Monday of June. Abandoned for decades and dilapidated--"eyesores" is one word the owner used to describe them --they came down without much fanfare or trouble. Improvements to the now-bare ground are slated to begin immediately.
Jan Arcangeli and Ray Neira, owners of "Smok'n Bones BBQ and Brews" restaurant on Burdett's Main Street, the adjacent property, were approached by county and village officials who asked whether they wanted to buy the buildings. The buildings had been previously sold about five times, Neira says. "And people walked away from them," he adds. With their 60-seat facility often filled on weekends, and parking only available on the street, the Neira family saw a way to make their place more pleasant for customers.
"The goal is outdoor seating," Neira explains. Eventually, there will be another door in their building's north wall for easier access, possibly an expansion for events and catering, but right now, they haven't decided where that door should be, though Jan's mother has a few ideas. In the meantime, the parking area and an outdoor area accessed from the building's two east doors will be partly screened from the road with shrubbery. The building's exterior wall exposed by the demolition will also soon get a face lift.
On a recent vacation in Alexandria Bay, Jan and Ray saw a restaurant with enticing outdoor garden seating --"Not just a plain, square patio with tables, but a garden where tables were scattered among bushes and trees," Arcangeli explains--and this inspired some of their plans.
The restaurant was previously a general store and a butcher shop, in what is now the kitchen. The floor and the eating area's ornate tin ceiling are original to the building. Ray Neira's appreciation of the place was honed by long years of working in the restaurant business before he worked his way up to his own. He began as a dishwasher when he was 15, then worked as a line cook and a fry cook, learning by apprenticeship. His dream of having his own, family-owned restaurant happened after he married Arcangeli, who grew up in Burdett. Her parents had owned the former general store, vacant for about eight years by then, and they still owned the building. "So that made it affordable," she says.
The restaurant opened its doors a dozen years ago, and its reputation and clientele has grown consistently ever since, becoming a solid, year-round presence. Arcangeli, who continues to work at her weekday jobs, for a law office and also doing public relations for an online dating site, also works with her husband in the kitchen on weekends. Her specialties are chicken parmigiana and eggplant parmigiana. "I like doing things with tomato sauce and cheese," she says.
Last Thursday, large equipment operators from Edger Construction in Elmira were finishing the cleanup. The buildings, constructed of a sort of baked tile used in the 19th century before the time of cement blocks, were demolished quickly--there was nothing inside worth salvaging. "Just a lot of garbage," Neira says. No treasure, buried or unburied. That's a question he's been asked often. No furniture. No time capsule. Not even interesting junk. Nothing at all? He thinks for a minute about the now-gone buildings. "We found a flower vase," he says. "That was it. Everyone wants to know if there was anything left inside. There wasn't."
The construction company pushed the more solid debris into the cellar hole; loaded and took away a lot of the rest in a large container truck. They were slated to finish by the end of the day, leveling the site for a parking lot, before beginning on cosmetic work to the now-exposed outside of the building. Then the gardens and a parking lot will begin to go in. One of the demolished buildings specified in its deed that space had to be left for a horse and buggy delivering caskets to turn around--but now it's no longer an issue, the space may be used for other things. "We're throwing around some different ideas, so it will be interesting," Arcangeli says.
A member of Burdett's planning board, she notes there are currently 14 to 15 businesses in Burdett, including some new bed-and-breakfast establishments. "After we opened and managed to survive, I think more businesses see Burdett is worth it. I think there's potential," she says.