Village restaurant approved by town

Old Brick Café to open next year

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The rush on new restaurants in Williston over the past couple of years has bypassed the village. That apparently is about to change.

The Development Review Board last week approved plans for the restaurant called the Old Brick Café. The restaurant is scheduled to open January in a two-story historic home on Williston Road across from Town Hall.

The owner, Williston resident David Herskowitz, plans to initially serve breakfast and lunch. He has yet to decide on the menu, though he vows it differ from the offerings of chain restaurants clustered around Taft Corners. The cook he hires will help determine what will be served.

"We’re still waiting to hire a food person," he said. "We’ll decide then what’s on the menu and what’s reasonable." He is also considering bread and other items baked on the premises.

Herskowitz said he will spend between $180,000 and $200,000 renovating the 160-year-old home. Workers have already cleared trees from the back of the building to make room for parking and demolished the ell that linked a small barn to the house. The project has won federal approval as an historic renovation, making Herskowitz eligible for tax credits.

The bulk of the renovations will take place in the rear of the building. A patio and a new entrance will be built. A reconstructed ell will house the kitchen.

He plans to make only minor changes to the building’s interior to adapt is for a restaurant, moving a couple of walls and constructing new bathrooms.

In approving the eatery, the Development Review Board placed a handful of restrictions on its operation. The restaurant can be open only for breakfast and lunch, said Williston zoning administrator Scott Gustin. As part of the approval, Herskowitz was required to place landscaping on the side of the house to shield the parking lot from adjacent buildings.

The front of the home, which dates back to 1842 and contains just over 1,000 square feet of space, will remain unchanged except for a fresh coat of paint. The restaurant will seat 50 diners inside and 15 on the outdoors patio.

Parking is tight at the site, with room for just 17 cars. Herskowitz was granted an easement that allows cars to use the town-owned lot near Williston Central School and Community Park.

Herskowitz still needs to obtain a sewer allocation before he can open the restaurant. There is sewer capacity available for such commercial uses, said Public Works Director Neil Boyden.

Herskowitz is new to the restaurant business. But he does have experience with historic renovations. He owns a renovated youth hostel in Philadelphia’s historic district.

The village has been without a restaurant since Bread & Beyond closed in 2001. Since then, many village residents have hoped for a replacement that would give them someplace to eat closer than Taft Corners.

Williston has added numerous restaurants over the past three years, all clustered around Taft Corners. Most of them have been franchise operations, including Chili’s Grill & Bar, 99 Restaurant and Ponderosa Steakhouse. Locally owned eateries have also opened, among them Belle’s Café and Nicco’s Cuchino.

If business is good at the Old Brick Café, Herskowitz said he would consider expanding its hours and serving dinner. Gustin said the café would need approval to amend the existing permit to increase its hours of operation.

"If things go really well, our goal two or three years down the line is to serve dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday," Herskowitz said.