By Jill Radwin
This past May, Union student Guss Firestein ‘11, along with his father David Firestein and alumnus Robert Raphael, purchased the property on Nott Terrace formerly occupied by Friendly’s.
The property lies between the college and the graduate school building, which makes it a prime location for students and faculty. David Firestein is President of Northwest Atlantic Real Estate Services in White Plains, New York. The firm consults with major retail businesses to find profitable property locations and also provides a tenant representative for each respective site.
Companies that the firm represents are Starbucks, Whole Foods, Key Bank, Staples, and Pinkberry. Raphael, the location’s other proprietor, is a principal at Gilman Management financial company.
“I found the location and told my dad about it. We put an offer on it when I was a sophomore,” Firestein said. “The school had offers on it as well, but they wanted a lot of restrictions that were not going to be met.” The location is especially desirable now that a lit walkway is in the works to connect Union to downtown Schenectady’s State Street.
The current senior, whose job is to find a tenant for the location, began work on the project over the summer by developing a response survey for student feedback. “Students want a place that is open 24 hours,” he said. Suggestions include a sports bar and a hookah bar. “I would love to have another bar near campus. It would be great to have something like a Rupsies,” Eva Pogosian ‘11 said. “Gepettos is always so crowded and it gets boring to go to the same place all the time.”
About 664 students responded to the survey, of which 57% stated that a bar would be the most successful establishment in the Friendly’s location. A burger joint ranked in as students’ second choice on the list. The group of respondents ranged from freshmen to alumni.
If the project goes as planned, the class of 2011 will benefit from the new establishment by the end of the year. Firestein notes, “I want the project done by spring term. It wouldn’t be hard. We can start construction in November. The hardest part is finding a tenant.”
The owners have talked with a number of businesses in the Schenectady area to assist in funding the project. Firestein also plans to contact New York culinary schools to find a cook. The owners’ hope is to open a non-chain establishment that meets the student’s suggestions.
“I want it to be a single place with outdoor seating and a bar with somewhere good to sit down. It would have food so it wouldn’t be exclusively a bar. I hope to have posters of the sports teams up and make it very Union,” Firestein added.
Many students are excited about the plans. “I think that a Union-themed restaurant bar would be a lot of fun to have,” Leah Cramer Gibbs ‘14 said. “It is much better then having a fast food chain.”
Alison Burnside of The Dartmouth Company’s Latham office acted as lead broker in the representation of Friendly’s. She will continue to work as a leasing agent as the project develops. Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority will likewise work with the new owners to execute the turnover.