By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Jon Greenwood, owner of Massie’s Italan Restaurant in South Glens Falls, took advantage of the mandated COVID shutdown last spring to do a full makeover of the main dining room, including adding a second bar at the restaurant he bought five years ago from Pat Russo, whose parents founded it in 1929.
Despite the pandemic’s 50 percent occupancy restriction and no outdoor seating, Mr. Greenwood says his business is up 20 percent, “and definitely better than at the same time last year, definitely up.”
He said take-out accounts for about a third of his business now, “at least double if not triple what it used to be.”
He’s optimistic: “Our busiest months are leading up to Christmas. In fall, we do great. People come. They’re wanting baked ziti and lasagna.”
He said, “We used to do a lot of events in the banquet space. We had a couple lined up, but they’re in limbo, if the state will allow it. We had one last week that we wound up catering in their own space.
“So that’s what we’re doing. We’ll cater out boxes of food. We don’t get the bar, but it’s less work, too.”
In general, Mr. Greenwood says, “We are doing better on sales, but it is taking more labor to get there. It’s a lot more involved, like with sanitation procedures.”
“The phone rings on average every four minutes while we on dinner service. The poor bartenders get to one call, then another; they’re staying there 10 minutes just answering the phones.
“People are always inquiring — are we following the guidelines, what are the rules, is there outdoor seating?”
He said, “Thankfully, we’re so big, the dining room is gigantic compared to anything in Glens Falls. With the new space, we can seat 130 to 140 at full capacity, so that’s still 70 people at half, and we can turn the tables a couple of times a night.”
“The entire thing is so challenging. We are trying, we are in the business of being hospitable, and then we are supposed to be the police officers of the rules, like with masks. We’ve had people get angry and leave, but it’s not our rules.”
“Thankfully, we’ve been building a great staff for five years, since day one. They like our style or routine, I guess. We are retaining the good ones, building one at a time. It’s almost like I don’t have to weed anyone out. The staff does it, they can tell when someone isn’t going to fit.”
Mr. Greenwood acknowledges, “I do have to pull a ton of hours in the kitchen. I’d like to change that, but it’s hard to find good kitchen help.
“There’s a big skew in the pay scale between front and back of house. With Burger King paying $13.50 an hour, and we used to play a good cook an average $16 to $17 an hour. Now starting [pay] is $16 to $17 for a decent cook, while most servers are making a damn good living. That’s a problem that’s been coming for a while.”
Massie’s redid its large dining room.
“We completely demolished it,” Mr. Greenwood said, “stripped it back from floor to ceiling. It was really classic, but it needed the upgrade.”
He said it was a “quarter million dollar” project financed through NBT Bank.
The added bar is set in space on the south side of the building that used to house a separate hair salon. “People can’t even figure out what it was before when they come in, unless I show them.”
Mr. Greenwood said, “We’ve done a 100 percent remodel. The only thing left [unrenovated] is the old a la carte dining room.”
Things broke Mr. Greenwood’s way. “Somehow by sheer luck,” he says, “we finished the renovations and a week later they let us reopen for indoor dining.”
Making use of Massie’s classic SGF/Adk. murals
When Jon Greenwood renovated Massie’s main dining room this year, he took down the classic South Glens Falls murals that long hung on the walls.
What’s to become of them?
Mr. Greenwood said he’s working with Brian Blackburn of Blackburn Galleries in Queensbury to have reproductions made.
“He photographed them, and he’s printing them on canvas, looks just like the original painting, only a little smaller size, and they’re in a frame.”
What will he do with the originals? “That’s a good question,” Mr. Greenwood says. “I have them now. I’m not doing anything too quickly. I love them. Maybe a historical society.”
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