By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — Steak cooked over a wood-burning grill, served at tables not far from a fireplace and ordered from a menu featuring New York meats cut on the premises.
These images are among plans presented by Chris Sloan as he sat Tuesday in the former Ponderosa Steakhouse on Chestnut Street in Oneonta and talked about opening a restaurant.
Sloan said his mother, Margaret Wolff of Fly Creek, has purchased the property for an undisclosed amount.
The closing was Friday, a key was in his hand Saturday and renovations started Monday, he said, and he estimated the project cost at $800,000, including the purchase price of the property. The goal is to open in the spring.
“We’re going to transform this place, and it’s going to be beautiful,’’ Sloan said. “This is quite a venture. It’s exciting but scary at the same time.”
Sloan said he wrestled with the idea of using his nickname in the restaurant name. But he decided name recognition would help and settled on “Sloanie’s New York Grill.’’
The Ponderosa Steakhouse on Chestnut Street closed in November after a decline in business, and the property was advertised for sale. The chain restaurant had been open locally since the 1970s.
The former Ponderosa property is assessed at $375,000, Oneonta Assessor Mario Arevalo said.
Occupancy at the Ponderosa was 225, Sloan said, and he estimated occupancy in the renovated restaurant and bar will be about 180, depending on inspections. Sloan said he would lease the building until he can take ownership after a few years of successful operations.
Plans call for having a retail counter inside the restaurant where customers may order cuts of meat and varieties of sausage, Sloan said. Outside, hand-hewn beams will be used on the restaurant façade, he said, and wood and local blue stone will be used to create a “rustic style with a touch of class” inside.
Prime 289 on Main Street downtown and Jay’s Steak and Seafood House on Chestnut Street in the town of Oneonta are among existing restaurants featuring menus with beef. A Google search for steakhouses in Oneonta also lists The Depot Restaurant and Tavern at 4½ Railroad Ave. and Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill at Southside Mall.
Sloan said his restaurant will be distinguished from others because it will feature New York raised meat free of growth hormone, he said, and the meat will be cut at the restaurant — not prepackaged and shipped to the restaurant.
Sloanie’s will offer reasonable prices, with lunches costing $8 or $9 and dinners at $15, Sloan said, and customers are expected to be local professionals, senior citizens, members of the college community and residents from the area.
“There will be something for everyone,” he said. “I think we can fill a niche.’’
Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said the local market will determine whether Oneonta can support another steakhouse. Sloanie’s is in a good location, Miller said, and the proposed retail side of the operation is a “terrific idea.’’
Sloan recently had been a co-owner of The Depot, an Oneonta restaurant known for its pizza, among other dishes. Sloan said he was general manager of the local Ponderosa from about 2000 to 2006, and he previously was a bartender for about 10 years at Elks Club.
Sloan, born in Oneonta in 1968, graduated from Oneonta High School in 1986. He studied business at the State University College at Oswego and now lives on Southside in the town of Oneonta.
Sloan said he has tapped Andrew Decker to be a chef at the restaurant. Employment projections are four to six full-timers and 18 part-timers, working in the kitchen, as wait staff and at other jobs.
Sloan said he left The Depot in November and had been looking for a restaurant with “location and parking.’’ The Chestnut Street property has about 90 parking spaces, he said, and the location is a “perfect spot.’’ Southside Oneonta has been growing economically, he said, and the West End also will develop.