By Benjamin Engle
The ‘Grand Slam Breakfast’ is coming to Schenectady. After three vacant years, the former Friendly’s restaurant location between the campuses of Union Graduate College and Union College on Nott Terrace will soon become a twenty-four hour Denny’s Restaurant.
Denny’s, which according to its website is “the largest family-service restaurant in America, with 21,000 employees and 1,546 restaurants” in 2009, will bring diner-style food to Schenectady and Union College students.
David Firestein and alum Robert Raphael purchased the 4,000-square-foot building in 2007; Firestein’s son, Guss ‘11, is also heavily involved with the property. Firestein is the President of Northwest Atlantic Real Estate Services in White Plains, NY, which assists major retailers, including Starbucks, Staples, and Whole Foods, in finding profitable locations as well as offers tenant representative services. Raphael is currently a principal at Gilman Management Financial Company. The Denny’s that will occupy the Nott Terrace location will be operated by Mahmud Kahn and Suprio Banerjee, both of whom already operate various Denny’s locations in upstate New York, California, Washington and Arizona.
Guss Firestein, who was involved in all of the major decisions regarding the property, including finding and choosing an appropriate tenant for the Nott Terrace building, researched the opinions of Union students by creating a Facebook group and poll during the summer of 2010.
“I wanted to find out what students thought would work best in the location as well as the type of place they were looking for,” he stated. “I felt that a poll and Facebook group were the best forums for collecting that information.”
The poll determined that Union students were interested in an establishment that was open late at night. Most students also wanted to see some type of bar go into the location.
While a Denny’s restaurant does not fit all the desires of the students who participated in the poll, Guss Firestein believes that the new restaurant will be a good fit for not only the location, but also for the community.
“I think that while students would rather see a local establishment open up, the Denny’s will provide them with most of the features they were looking for,” Firestein commented. “The Denny’s will be 24-hours and coupled with it [is] inexpensive food and close vicinity. I think students will be pleased.”
Thus far, however, student reaction has been mixed.
“I think it is great that we will have a place with cheap food that is open 24-hours and is walking distance from campus, but the fact that it is a chain restaurant is unlike the trend in Schenectady, where there are numerous family-owned and operated restaurants,” Melanie Watman ‘12 said. “It makes me wonder why they bothered sending out a survey of what Union students want. Most people I’ve spoke to are disappointed.”
“I tend to not eat fast food often, but if it is open late, it will provide a service that is severely lacking in Schenectady,” added EG Gaffin-Cahn ‘12.
Aaron Glosser ‘12 believes that the new restaurant will fill a gap in dining options.
“Students often complain about Union’s lack of 24 hour dining. Located within walking distance to campus, Denny’s will solve that problem,” Glosser said. “Denny’s will be a valuable asset for the Union College community.”
“I’m pretty excited for it. At first I was hoping for a bar and grill of some sort, but more off campus drinking can only bring about more safety issues,” Ian Schwartz ‘12 commented.
Mark Chaskes ‘12 and Shelby Cuomo ‘13 are both very happy about the new Denny’s.
“I love it! The one thing Union was really lacking was a local diner that I can grab a decent meal at any time of the day or night,” said Chaskes.
“[I’m] so excited! It’s one of my favorite late night spots!” Cuomo added.
While Firestein is not currently certain as to when the Denny’s restaurant will be opening, the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority states a “complete overhaul of the restaurant” will occur 4 to 6 months once all the permits are processed. Firestein believes that students will most likely have to wait until next fall to enjoy a ‘Grand Slam Breakfast.’
“Denny’s fills a key location at the gateway to downtown. We welcome them to Schenectady County,” Ray Gillen, Metroplex Chair and Commissioner of Economic Development and Planning in Schenectady County, said in a Metroplex news statement.
“I think that everyone is happy to see an establishment finally occupy the location after sitting there vacant for quite some time,” Firestein said. “I know my dad, David Firestein, and Robert Raphael are appreciative of all the help both Union College and representatives from Schenectady have given throughout the process.”