Stewart’s Shops in ‘conversation’ with Smith’s Tavern

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Blue Ribbon business: Last April, Mobil employee Faisal Mahmood, left, accepts a blue ribbon from Thomas Reardon, then principal of Voorheesville Elementary School. Administrators and students from Voorheesville Elementary visited employees at the Voorheesville Mobil station kitty corner from the school to thank them for their support.

VOORHEESVILLE — Stewart’s Shops may purchase Smith’s Tavern and relocate its current village store there, according to a Stewart’s spokeswoman.

“We are in conversation with the owner of that business,” Maria D’Amelia of Stewart’s Shops told The Enterprise of Smith’s Tavern. She said that nothing has been finalized, and that discussions are “in the early stages.”

“The intention with projects like this is that would provide us a larger that, typically, we would replace” smaller shops, D’Amelia said.

A year ago, local rumors of an impending sale circulated, but D’Amelia would not comment then.

Stewart’s has a Voorheesville shop at 42 South Main Street, near the American Legion, the Voorheesville Diner, and Village Hall. The location used to have gas pumps but no longer does. The shop, however, is out of the main traffic thoroughfare through Voorheesville on Route 85A.

Smith’s Tavern, at 112 Maple Ave., has a full market value of $257,600, according to the county’s assessment rolls.

Asked if Stewart’s was also considering purchasing the Mobil station next to Smith’s Tavern, D’Amelia confirmed this week that Stewart’s is having “normal business-to-business” discussions with the fuel company. She said that the conversation was not a negotiation with Mobil.

“There is potential to have a conversation,” she said. D’Amelia said that it is “way too far ahead” to discuss plans Stewart’s may have for the Mobil station.

“We’re just trying to look at our plan with the tavern,” she said.

The Enterprise contacted Smith’s Tavern, but the owners, Jon McClelland and John Mellen, did not return a call before press time. McClelland and Mellen bought the tavern from Frank and Gert Smith 25 years ago, in 1991.

Zia Rehman, whose family leases and runs the Voorheesville Mobil business, said that Stewart’s Shops had not contacted him, but had probably contacted Sunoco LP, which purchased Alta East Inc., the previous owner of the Mobil station, in December.

“I definitely want to stay,” Rehman said. “I love this village. I hate the idea of Stewart’s buying this place out. Everywhere you go, you find Stewart’s.”

Stewart’s recently closed its Westmere shop that did not have gas pumps, and last year attempted to purchase homes adjacent to its Altamont shop for expansion — that attempt was halted by resident concerns, leading to a 2-to-2 split vote on the village board; a majority was required to change the zoning of the adjacent property from residential to commercial.

Rehman expressed concerns about the position of Smith’s Tavern next to the Vly Creek, if Stewart’s Shops puts in gas pumps that fuel the chain across the state.  

“It rains a lot; the place floods,” Rehman said. “Putting a gas tank up is a bad idea. It’s going to contaminate the whole area.”

The Mobil station’s full market value is $440,000, according to the county’s assessment rolls.

“My family works here,” Rehman said. “They make a living here.” The family is originally from Pakistan.

Last April, Voorheesville Elementary School students and teachers walked to the Mobil gas station to give the owners a blue ribbon.
“They are basically providing a blue ribbon to our community businesses that support us, and who also played a part in why we are a Blue Ribbon school,” said then-Principal Thomas Reardon. “Mobil has been extremely kind and generous to our faculty and staff, who will frequent this local establishment for coffee.  They have taken time to get to know our employees, and also frequently inquire how our students are doing.  They are the epitome of friendly.”

Smith’s Tavern is a local iconic eatery, which hosts a poet’s corner and has employed generations of residents to serve Voorheesvillians who gather at the former hotel’s tables for handmade pizzas.

Smitty’s, as the restaurant is known, was started by Frank L. Smith before World War II.

His son, Frank Smith Jr.,  put on an addition to the restaurant and started making pizza there, according to his daughter, Dottie Wright.

“He made it famous,” she said in an interview in March.

“Pizza was introduced in 1958...and in that time we have probably made close to two million pizzas,” owner Jon McClelland said previously.
In addition to its Voorheesville shop, Stewart’s has a larger store with gas pumps two miles away in the hamlet of New Scotland on Route 85.

“We’re continually, always looking at our shops and ways to serve our customers better,” D’Amelia said previously.

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