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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 5, 2008
End of the day for Buona Sera
By David S. Lewis
NEW SCOTLAND Both Buona Sera and J.J. Madden’s have closed their doors to the public; owner John Jeffers said there wasn’t enough local business to keep him restaurant and bar afloat.
The location had been home to the Heavenly Inn restaurant and, later, Auberge Suisse, which featured European cuisine.
Jeffers said it has been an uphill battle since he opened his restaurant on New Scotland Road three years ago.
The restaurant, which served “traditional American fare” such as burgers, wings, and corned beef, was located in the old nunnery across from Olsen’s Nursery, close to the intersection of routes 85 and 85A.
“I think you’re going to bore your readers, talking about J.J. Maddens,” said Jeffers in a phone interview Wednesday. “They’ve long forgotten about it.”
Buona Sera at J.J. Maddens, the Italian-themed steakhouse that briefly occupied the space over the last three months, was an entrepreneurial attempt by another businessman who was renting the space from Jeffers. When the prospective buyer wasn’t able to make payments, Jeffers took the business back over. He closed the doors on May 17.
“It started off pretty well, and there were some ups and downs…It was up and down all the way,” said Jeffers of the restaurant. “It was never consistent.”
Jeffers said that he was targeting “Anyone within the area, within a two- or three-mile radius.
“I was just going to open up a place that was close and safe and fun, so people didn’t have to go to Wolf Road, all those chain businesses, or all the way to Albany,” he said. “They didn’t come.”
So, where did they go?
“That’s a good question,” said Jeffers. “I don’t know. I assume they went to Wolf Road, to where the chains are, that they say they don’t want here,” he said, in reference to the residents who cited the need for local business at the town meetings held over the last month.
Many residents protested a developer’s proposal to build a large-scale retail center on the Bender melon farm, which is less than a mile from Jeffers’s restaurant. Although 2,200 New Scotlanders signed the petition urging the town board to pass a moratorium that would block the developer from submitting an application for six months, Jeffers opposed the measure. While a citizens’ group put up many signs in the weeks before the town board voted on the moratorium, the only signs opposing it were paid for by Jeffers, and were printed by the developer’s public-relations firm, Zone 5. Those signs were erected the night before the board’s vote; they had been given out to 20 or so residents who were opposed to the moratorium and met with the developer at J.J. Madden’s several days before the vote.
Jeffers stands by his choice to oppose the moratorium. He said that the mall would have helped him, either by increasing business or by increasing his property’s value.
“Either way, it was a win-win for me,” said Jeffers. He also said that he thought the town had treated the developer unfairly. “Truly, the guy wasn’t lying, truly they should have given him a shot,” said Jeffers. “It was a shame to sit there and watch them crucify this guy.”
He also spoke against the town’s bureaucracy. “We have to create committees every time someone wants to do something,” he said. “And now the town is going to pay for something the developer was offering to do for free,” he said of the surveys and studies that would need to be conducted before a developer could have built on the Bender site.
Jeffers said that he encountered many difficulties before he opened.
“The sign in front of the restaurant has been there for 30 years, and I had to get a sign permit because I was changing the letters on it,” he said. “And they also said, ‘by the way, it isn’t the right distance from the road’…for a 30-year-old sign.” He added that the requirements for obtaining a permit had been especially frustrating.
“I sat there as they created a permit just for me,” he said. “It is amazing how they create their own rules. They ate me up, from the day I opened my business, creating permits that didn’t exist, just for me, because I am that special,” he said.
Smith’s Tavern, located near the corner of routes 156 and 85 in Voorheesville, has been in business for 45 years, according to co-owner Jon McClelland. He attributed the business’s success to good pizza and “good tavernality.”
“Me and my business partner, John Mellen, have owned [Smith’s Tavern] for 17 years and we have always enjoyed the community’s support. We have great help, great support from the community…I guess I have to say, we do get that support,” he said.
McClelland said that he couldn’t speculate on the reason Jeffers’s business had failed.
“They gave it a great shot, but our success has certainly been due to the town’s support.”
Jeffers said he felt he never had a chance.
“I truly don’t know; I was just a little man trying to make a living here, and they made sure it didn’t happen,” he said.
Janna Shillinglaw said that she had similar concerns when she first opened her New Scotland real estate business in the Stonewell Plaza. Shillinglaw, who started the Business Builders organization as a way for New Scotland business owners to network since there’s no chamber of commerce, had her office’s grand opening party at J.J. Maddens. Since she opened her business, her perception of the community has changed.
“I guess I have learned that, by reaching out to the community in various ways, such as volunteering and actively engaging local business, I learned that it was my responsibility to develop a relationship with the town of New Scotland, rather than the other way around,” said Shillinglaw. She is a member of New Scotland’s Kiwanis chapter and volunteers with Community Caregivers.
“I needed to reach out to as many people as possible, the townspeople and other local business owners,” she said, “and, by doing that, I’m now watching my business grow.
“You have to develop a relationship of trust.”