Monday, August 7, 2017

Update 2: Voorheesville government stalls Stewart's project

The familiar Smith's Tavern (photo provided)
UPDATE (8/7/17): Smith's Tavern, a longtime Voorheesville landmark, is gone, but progress on its intended successor -- a Stewart's convenience market -- has stalled. The problem is a village moratorium on development while it works on a comprehensive land-use plan.

UPDATE (5/12/17): Smith's Tavern will cease to exist after service on Saturday, May 27. The property is being sold to Stewart's Shops to be converted into a convenience store and gas station. Stewart's is hoping to get final Planning Commission approval for the project at its June 13 public meeting.

(Originally published 4/13/17)

For more than 70 years, Smith's Tavern has been part of the fabric of Voorheesville. Now, the Albany County village icon that has its roots in a venue dating back more than a century is on the verge of extinction to make way for yet another Stewart's store.

The sprawling Stewart’s Shops empire, which began business about the same time as Smith's, today has more than 335 locations in 31 counties across Upstate New York and southern Vermont. It has signed a contract to buy Smith’s Tavern, whose owners John Mellen and Jon McClelland want to retire. Stewart's also is considering nearby locations in neither Berne or Knox for an additional new store and gas station.

If the Voorheesville plan comes to fruition, Stewart's will build a convenience store and gas station on the site in the heart of the village. Public reaction to the plan has generally been split as recently as this week's planning commission meeting. The project would require a special use permit for installation of gasoline tanks and pumps to proceed. The planning commission has 60 days to render a decision.

Concurrently, the village is in the midst of developing a comprehensive land use plan, something that cropped up after Stewart's initial submission of plans several months ago.

Mellen and McClelland took ownership of the restaurant in 1991. According to a company history, it had its origins when Nick Oliver built the West End Hotel on the bank of Vly Creek in 1901. The Helderberg mountains at the time were a popular vaction destination, and the business flourished for decades. In July 1937, Frank J. Cramer received a license for beer and food and the West End Hotel became the Cramer House.

Then, in 1945, Frank and Elizabeth Smith purchased the operation and it became Smith's Tavern, the name it still uses. In 1959, their son Frank Jr. and his wife Gert took over and introduced the pizza for which Smith's became widely known. They retired in 1991 when Mellen and McClelland bought the business. Over the years it became a haven for poetry nights and acoustic music sessions.

Smith's is located at 112 Maple Avenue (Route 85A). Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday,  11 a.m. to close Friday-Saturday, 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday. Phone: (518) 765-4163.

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