VOORHEESVILLE — Smith’s Tavern owners are in talks to sell to Stewart’s Shops.
With retirement in mind, Smith’s Tavern owners Jon McClelland and John Mellon have signed a purchase agreement with Stewart’s, which would allow Stewart’s to buy their pizza shop if the Village of Voorheesville approves Stewart’s plans for the site.
“We do have a purchase option contract, that we signed in April,” McClelland confirmed.
Stewart’s would use the new location to relocate their current Voorheesville Stewart’s at 42 South Main Street to Smith’s Tavern on Maple Avenue.
“We’re very much in the early stages here, but we have had discussions with Smith’s, and our intentions are to purchase, but those plans are contingent on necessary approvals,” said Maria D’Amelia, spokeswoman for Stewart’s Shops.
Stewart’s intends on gaining approval to sell gas at the location, said D’Amelia, as their current Voorheesville location does not sell gas. The site would not need to be rezoned, and Stewart’s “would certainly follow every regulation and take every step we can for safety,” she said, especially as the site is located so close to Vly Creek.
The company is currently going through a re-branding initiative, or “evolution,” as D’Amelia called it. All Stewart’s shops will eventually be remodeled, and in some cases expanded or relocated to allow pizza, sub stations and other grab and go food options to be added.
Smith’s – known locally as Smitty’s – has been given the option by Stewart’s to relocate to the current Voorheesville Stewart’s shop.
McClelland was open to this possibility, but said he and his business partner were intent on retiring.
“We’ve been there for 25 years and I am anxious to retire,” said McClelland. “If we could create something perhaps to sell pizza for pick up, with some tables, then maybe. I am not planning on that, but if numbers work that could be an option.”
McClelland and Mellon have been preparing to sell for over a year and received two purchase offers, one from a restaurant group, and the other – a higher offer – from Stewart’s.
“I know a lot of people are saying, ‘Why Stewart’s?’ but, we were selling to the best offer that came along. It could have been someone else, but it happened to be Stewart’s,” said McLelland.
No site plans have been submitted to Voorheesville Planning Board as of yet. Any site plans will likely take between four to six months to gain approval. The purchase is not yet official and no date of closure has been set for Smith’s Tavern.
Should Stewart’s gain approval to operate gas pumps at Smith’s, the new Stewart’s would be located directly next door to an existing gas station, a Mobile, operated by the Rehman family.
Mobile co-licensee Zia Rehman said she plans on staying at the location, but expressed concerns about placing gas pumps at Smith’s Tavern, as the area often floods.
Smith’s Tavern was opened as a hotel in 1937. Before World War II, in 1945, it became a tavern, owned by Frank L. Smith, who lent his name to the restaurant. Smith’s was later owned by his son, Frank Smith Jr., who introduced hand-made pizza, and operated the business his wife, Gert Smith. McClelland and Mellon bought the tavern from Frank and Gert Smith in 1991.
McClelland was clear to say he was very sympathetic to the community’s heartache over the possible closure of his business.
“We’ve made a lot of friends, but in my case, it’s time to move on and know partner feels the same way. All good things must come to an end.”