Drake's Restaurant --- serving locals and summer people for more than 70 years -- is set for a Mother's Day re-opening, ending months of speculation about its future.
Restaurant veteran Carl DeSantis Jr., signed a 12 month lease on Sunday, promising to breathe new life into the Route 9 landmark.
"We will be ready for a Mother's Day opening, we'll close for a few days to review how things went, then be opening for the season on Friday, May 18," Carl told Schroon Laker.
"I want to return the restaurant to where it in once was. I've heard it had a rocky couple of years. I'm going to draw on my many years in the business to make this a success."
Carl is no stranger to Upstate New York or the food business. He grew up in the kitchens of several of his father's restaurants.
At one time his father owned 9 eateries, including several Howard Johnson franchises in Lake George, Clifton, Glens Falls and other well-known upstate restaurants including Carl R's, The Red Coach Grill and the Copper Kettle.
"I've been working in restaurants since I was a teenager. I eventually owned and ran my own restaurants, The Old Country Buffett and the Seven Steers Steakhouse in Long Lake."
Carl left the business, moved to North Carolina and took a career detour that landed him in the computer industry for 13 years.
"I've been looking to get back into the business in this area for a couple of years now."
A Craigslist search lead him to Drake's. "I walked in and I thought this is it. The terms offered by Buddy (Nelson - the current owner) were favorable. This is a turn-key operation. It's ready to go."
Before signing the lease, Carl's first priority was finding a chef who could help him bring the restaurant back to its glory days.
"The chef came to me highly recommended. He is very well respected by many people I trust. He and I both have high standards. He's very excited".
Carl declined to name the chef pending him getting out of his current gig.
As for the menu, Carl will build on and tweak the current line-up, which is known for its prime rib, tenderloin, fresh lobster and Italian fare.
"I want to take it a little upscale. The new chef has some very good ideas. Maybe a bit less Italian. I also want to add to the menu comfort food priced a little lower.
"I want this place to appeal to everyone. Locals, tourists, second home owners. I'm looking forward to becoming part of this community."
As for any immediate physical changes to the restaurant, Carl says he will keep the nautical themed dining room decor the same.
"What it needs is a good going over with elbow grease. There are more important things than a re-design".
Carl says he speaks daily with former owner Tony Bartolomeo, who has provided valuable insights into the restaurant's history. "Tony ran this place for 30 years. He is a great source of knowledge for me."
Carl is looking forward to a busy season and hopes to welcome back the many locals who have supported the restaurant in the past.
"I want people who come here to feel comfortable and welcome and glad they came."
Carl says the motel side of Drake's will be operated by the family of the current owners of the complex.
The restaurant is now interviewing candidates for all positions. To make an appointment call 518 532-9040.
Drake’s Restaurnt and Motel. (About one mile north of downtown) 1295 US Route 9,
Schroon Lake, NY 12870