Sweet Beet Bistro Moves To Downtown Glens Falls
The “tremendous potential” of Glens Falls and the active participation of its business and community members is what attracted one business to relocate from their current location in Greenwich, New York, to Glens Falls in Warren County.
Sweet Beet Bistro is currently renovating the old Mailings Made Easy building on Warren Street with plans to open their restaurant in that location in the Fall of 2021. We spoke with owner Johanna vonGeldern about her business and what’s bringing her to Warren County.
Can you tell us about the restaurant you’re opening?
It started as Dish Bistro in the fall of 2014 when I bought it from the previous owners. I rebranded to Sweet Beet Bistro in April of 2015. My Chef was passionate about the local farms and we decided to create a “farm to table” theme and offer homemade, from scratch kitchen food using locally sourced food. We select from only the highest quality farms. We wanted to use ingredients that were grown, raised, and cultivated with positive loving energy, and we wanted to honor those artisans. Then we wanted to prepare and serve the food with the greatest energy of love and positivity to our customers. Our desire was to create an atmosphere and experience which would create great memories and keep patrons returning. Philosophically, we placed ourselves into the food revolution. Our staff are all very passionate about food trends, health trends, ingredients, and flavor pairing science. We love the discussions which spark from our dishes! Here’s the website from our previous location in Greenwich (2014-2020), sweetbeetbistro.com.
The new space will still be a farm to table menu, but will also include handcrafted cocktails and fun music. Hopefully brunch, eventually!
Why did you choose to bring your business to Glens Falls? Why Warren Street?
We had been working with Peter Hoffman since late 2019, looking for a downtown space to lease. When this space came up last fall, he asked us, my daughter Kate Houlihan and I, to come over immediately and take a look. He wanted to know if we could see its potential and his vision for our business in that location. We could see it instantly, and with great enthusiasm, we told him we were 100% in!
Covid hit in the spring and we had closed our doors in March. It seemed the perfect time to transition to a new location with more foot traffic and where we already had a strong support system of loyal customers.
What kinds of things can folks expect to find on the menu?
Imagine Paris meets Brooklyn meets San Diego!
Our food is eclectic and creative while using only the highest quality products. We taste test as a group and tweak recipes as a staff. It’s very important that our sauces, dressings, all items really, are balanced in texture, flavor, and appearance.
We have unique appetizers including fondue and an entire cheese board menu. We retail our unique vegan beet burger and beet hummus to a few local farm stores and also Four Seasons in Saratoga and hope to expand to larger chains eventually. But you can find these on our menu at all times.
Our philosophy about using the highest quality and most regardfully raised local foods is still at the heartbeat of Sweet Beet. We will continue to offer a variety of choices for special eaters with vegan options, gluten-free options and also plan on bringing back our highly demanded grass-fed burger from St. Croix Farm along with our vegan beet burger.
What is unique about your restaurant?
The new space will have three areas: a dining room, a bar room, and a covered, heated garden patio. We don’t source from any of the large mainstream companies. Our proteins are grass-fed meats, local pastured products, and wild-caught seafood. We use 40+ local companies like Saratoga Olive Oil, Saratoga Gluten-Free, and Victory View Vineyards, to name a few. We use many! We work with a local farm for edible flowers on our plating. The presentation is meant to be visually pleasing as well as good for you and delicious.
We know the importance of offering options for all eaters, so we always have vegan and vegetarian options as well as gluten-free options and kids items. The prices vary from $15 to $40+ for entrees. I would say that ‘foodies’, people who travel and love to try new foods, or people who spend time researching food, health, and cooking or who have specific dietary restrictions will enjoy our restaurant. We are not mainstream by any means. The bar menu will be a bit more for casual snacking, and the drink menu will be unique with craft cocktails, local and international wines, and several spirits and beer from local distilleries and breweries. We plan on crafting our own elixir base of syrups using fresh herbs and delicious ingredients for cocktails.
Tell us about who you are and what brought you to this moment.
I went to graduate school at the College of Saint Rose and had a career teaching elementary school for over 16 years. As the standardized testing pressures got more intense from states and districts, the gap between my philosophical beliefs and mainstream pressures of standardized testing and how that was forcing us to structure learning in the classrooms motivated me to make a change. I sold a property and began searching for a small business that I could purchase and run, to completely change my career and become an independent business owner. My girls and I had always daydreamed about running a B&B or owning a small café.
The online search for purchasing a business lasted well over a year. During that time, one of my friends owned a beachfront restaurant and had a vacant shop space available for a summer beach snack bar. It was sitting vacant, but already had all of the necessary approvals to open. So, I agreed to take on this project and created the menu, purchased the equipment, and created the signage and theme. With her guidance and my hard work, we were able to open in about a month and I ran a very successful beach snack bar business for that season. This was equivalent to getting a master’s degree in running a small business in my mind.
At the same time, my daughter‘s family moved home to New York from Florida. On a trip to see them in February, I discovered the location in Greenwich that was operating as Dish Bistro. I absolutely fell in love with the size, the location, the charm, and the healthy vibe of the menu. I literally said to my family and friends, “If I ever had a restaurant business, it would be just like this.” Months of searching went by. In August, I found Dish Bistro for sale online under my price range. I immediately began a dialogue with the owners; we talked back-and-forth for a month and it was time for me to make a decision. Was I going to pack up my entire life, sell my car and fly to New York to purchase this restaurant business?
I was out to lunch in Florida with my friend and the owner of Dish Bistro, Susan, called me. I hung up with her and I told my friend about the idea and potential plan of purchasing Dish and moving back to NY. Then when I opened my fortune cookie after lunch, it literally said “DISH” on one side and it said “go for your dreams ~ start with the spring roll” on the other side. My decision was made. At the time I had been studying the law of attraction and was looking for signs. I took this as a solid sign from the universe directing me to go for my dreams even though it was scary, terrifying in fact!
I still have the fortune cookie. I like to think that my story will hopefully inspire others to listen to their intuition, follow their dreams and not allow fear to hold us back from making changes to pursue what excites us.
Once I made the commitment, everything seemed to fall into place. From finding a friend to rent my townhome within 24 hours, selling my car and then finding my amazing chef!
When are you opening?
We hope to open by late September or early October.
What would you say to other restaurateurs or businesses thinking about relocating to Warren County or Glens Falls?
We see tremendous potential in this city! The events with food and celebrations are creative! The Glens Falls Collaborative and other groups are really committed to moving the city forward. It’s so important to create a business that is desired and will be embraced and nurtured by the community, and we feel this is a mutually beneficial partnership that we are thrilled to be part of!
Having a staff with positive dedicated energy, who feel a sense of ownership in the business will still be a key component. Our core staff is coming with us to the new spot! With the culinary school nearby, we hope to harness the potential passion of students who want to study with our amazing chef. We miss our loyal customers and can’t wait for the day we have a grand reopening celebration and can provide a sweet gathering space to break bread and create new memories together!
How has EDC been helpful?
I was referred to the EDC from friends in the Adirondack Chamber of Commerce (and customers from Greenwich). Since then, I have received many referrals within the EDC in this new community.
The support here is palpable and refreshing! The perfect next step from the amazing community of Greenwich.