|The Register Star, Oct. 8, 2006|
From Service Station to Tablecloths, the Transformation of a Building
Eating locally grown and raised foods, and adaptive reuse of buildings are much discussed issues in Columbia County. One new restaurant in Philmont embodies both ideas, hoping to attract diners from around the county to Philmont and serving village residents. The restaurant, Local 111, located at 111 Main St., opened in the middle of August and is owned by Linda Gatter and Max Dannis. The restaurant is located in the former Schermerhorn Garage.
Gatter said she and her husband purchased the building in November 2004, and initially didn't know what to do with it. They knew what they didn't want to do — open a retail store, which they believed an unviable business venture in the small village of 1,400 people. They decided to open a restaurant. "There's room for more restaurants in Columbia County" Gatter said. "People will travel to get to a good restaurant." And people who want to open restaurants in the county may have to spend a considerable amount of time at planning board meetings. The couple spent four months before the village planning board before their project was approved.
Linda Gatter credits the village government with changing some zoning laws regarding on-site parking, which made the couple's plan for the restaurant easier. Most municipalities in the county have zoning laws requiring that a certain number of parking spaces be created per square feet of building, she said. This can be hard to accomplish in dense areas like villages or the city of Hudson, where there is little room for parking. The village of Philmont changed the law to allow for the restaurant to have fewer parking spots than formerly required.
When it came time to renovate the old garage, the couple choose to use local talent, relying on area builders for as many projects as possible, including the pouring of a new cement floor.
They looked farther afield to find a chef. David Wurth, who formerly worked for 10 years at Savoy in Manhattan, joined the Gatters. Wurth brought an interest in using local products and a passion for the area's agricultural community. "It was a milestone for us to get a very good chef," said Gatter. And that chef has designed a menu that relies on the bounty of the season. For example, as winter arrives tomatoes will be off the menu, replaced by winter squash and Brussels sprouts.
While the menu is seasonal, the restaurant will be open year round. Gatter is mulling some ways to attract more of a local crowd, such as offering a percentage off the menu on Thursdays for volunteer firefighters.
As to why the couple chose Philmont to open a restaurant, Gatter said "Philmont is sort of the next frontier. There are a lot of people making individual efforts and working together in a nice way."
For more information on Local 111, call 518-672-7801.