GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – If you were to visit 80 Warren St. near Centennial Circle a year ago, you would have found the former home of a bulk mail services company. You likely would not have expected that, one year later, it would be completely transformed into a new restaurant, giving a fresh opportunity to a group of business owners from nearby.
And yet, if you were to stop at 80 Warren St. now, you would be met by a new facade, an outdoor dining patio, and a group of family co-owners and staff who have been there for every step of the transformation that the downtown building has gone through. Mint, a new restaurant and cocktail bar, is open for business, operated by owners who had been looking to make a move for some time.
“We had already been planning on moving to Glens Falls, but the universe sort of gave us a push,” said co-owner Katriel Houlihan. “(The COVID-19 pandemic) was a much-needed time of rest and re-collaboration.”
Katriel and her sister, Cagney, have joined their mother and business partner, Johanna von Geldern, in starting a new chapter of their time serving local food to local customers. Von Geldern started out in the restaurant industry six years ago, when she opened Sweet Beet Bistro in Greenwich. The farm-to-table restaurant was a great enterprise, but the family partners and co-owners were looking for more space, and a bar.
“We were thinking there would probably be a different vibe,” said von Geldern, a retired teacher. “It has this whole different energy to it. Sweet Beet was one energy, and this is another one.”
The vibe that von Geldern talks about is one that she and her daughters were able to direct in many ways. While looking into a potential move to Glens Falls, she met Peter Hoffman, the building’s owner, on the day he closed on 80 Warren St. Von Geldern completely changed what he had planned to do with it.
“He called me up and said, ‘Hey, I just closed on a building. What are you doing right now?’ And (Katriel) and I rushed right over.”
Hoffman’s plan had been to demolish the building to create a parking lot, but von Geldern was told he liked the bones of the place too much to let it go. Instead, he thought of the old Sweet Beet Bistro – knowing that von Geldern was planning a move – and suggested his new acquisition as the business’ new home.
From there, the mother and daughters were able to pick and choose the details that went into what was then a cinderblock floor and drab walls. The result is a big, U-shaped bar backed by an antique mirror; art on the walls by a local painter; and antique, 1920s-era tables once used at the capitol building in Albany.
Getting the kitchen into shape was another matter. The business needed upwards of $100,000 in new kitchen equipment, and needed some help. The assistance they got came from the GF Business DRIVE program, run by EDC Warren County, which gave them $20,000 to help get what they needed. The funds were awarded last July, in a wave that also gave new opportunities to local businesses like Abby’s Cookie Jar and SideKick Creative.
What’s cooking, Glens Falls?
One commonality between the Sweet Beet of yesteryear and the Mint of today is the importance of sourcing food locally, whenever and however possible. That was in some ways easier in Greenwich, nestled in the midst of rural Washington County – an area full of local farms.
Many of those farms were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Combine that with a 20-mile change in location, and there’s a lot of new relationships with local farms to find and strengthen. They’ve already begun working with Matt Funiciello, owner of Rock Hill Bakehouse and Cafe, to develop a gluten-free pizza dough. Head chef Chris Kerr has visited farmers’ markets and done all he can to get the ball rolling – all while developing a menu that is practically always a new draft of what it was the day before.
“It’s clean, organic, temporary balance. We’re going to build our menus, going forward, off of the community,” Kerr said. “We’re going to see what they’re interested in having and trying. This business model is not one where we can just do whatever we want. It’s about giving the community what they want to have.”
Ask how many revisions the menu has had, and you’ll get a room of laughs. Kerr is always one menu ahead, as von Geldern tells it. It’s a similar story at the bar, where mostly local spirits, wines and beers are served alongside handcrafted cocktails by general manager Brandi Michal.
That’s not to say the family business is without its old standbys. Favorite items from the Sweet Beet menu have followed the business owners from one kitchen to another, like brisket, and the namesake sweet beet salad. Those staples are remembered fondly by longtime Sweet Beet customers, and discovered by new Mint patrons.
Now, those flavors can be enjoyed along new ones – and not just at the new restaurant. The family is keeping the Sweet Beet name going, selling the popular vegan beet burger and hummus at some local health food markets. That side of the business is just getting going, but with a kitchen as large as the one at Mint, the ceiling on success just got a lot higher. So far, the customer reaction in Mint’s first two weeks tells the family that they’re doing just fine.
“It’s kind of funny, because our servers – most of whom are new – are shocked and surprised, because the customers are so pleasant,” said von Geldern. “There’s none of that sort of hostile energy, like ‘I’ve been screwed over at so many restaurants, I’m ready to judge this.’ You can see that vibe when people walk through the door, but our customers who know us are so happy to come in and eat here.”
Mint is located at 80 Warren St. in Glens Falls, near Centennial Circle and the World Awareness Children’s Museum. It’s been a busy few years for the street. The former post office nearby was remodeled in recent years into a Social Security office.