JOHNSTOWN – The county is looking for a new tenant for its vacant restaurant space at the Fulton County Airport, and for the first time in 20 years, it’s possible it won’t be a restaurant.
The county supervisors’ Building & Grounds/Highway Committee on Monday approved the Planning Department’s proposal to seek bidders interested in leasing the 1,200-square-foot facility off Route 67, a few steps from the airport runway.
“We state that we’re open for all types of use. But because it’s historically been used as a restaurant, that’s what we’ve been receiving proposals for,” said county Planning Director James Mraz. “If someone wanted to convert it into an office building or something different, we’ll entertain it.”
The full board is expected to approve putting the site up for bid at its meeting next month. The committee could select a tenant and agree to lease terms after opening bids in March, and the full board would be able to give final approval at its April meeting.
The building has been a restaurant space for about 20 years and continually open as a bakery-cafe for the last five, but the county has had difficulty attracting bidders and getting them to pay on time.
Grandma Millie’s Bakery was the only bidder for the site when the company moved from downtown Gloversville to the airport in early 2011, when it initially paid $50 a month. But over its five years, it frequently was behind on rent and in default of its lease, according to county documents.
Supervisors in October bypassed a slightly less lucrative proposal for a different cafe on the site and renewed Grandma Millie’s lease for 2016, which called for $275 monthly payments and a $10 sewer fee. But the bakery closed on Dec. 31, leaving an unpaid balance due on its lease payments, Mraz said.
The previous tenant, Schiavo’s Port Seafood had a five-year lease when it opened in the spring of 2009, but it closed for fall and winter and closed for good a year later. And requests for proposals on the site in 2008 yielded no bidders.
“It’s been a tough place to survive as a restaurant,” Mraz said. “And Grandma Millie’s had the best chance because running the day-to-day as a restaurant was secondary to the primary business of baking and selling commercially.”
The next tenant will find the space ready for customization, with only a plastic utility sink and a small commercial exhaust hood remaining from the bakery. A decorative airplane wing hanging in the dining area remains from the bakery’s 2013 appearance on the TLC reality show “Buddy’s Bakery Rescue.”
Grandma Millie’s kitchen equipment, appliances, chairs, tables, counters and fixtures were auctioned off last week at County Line Auctions in Gloversville.
The new tenant also will likely find utility costs more economical after the committee approved a plan to insulate the building while it’s vacant. The absence of insulation meant air conditioning was inefficient and heating the building even to 50 degrees cost more than $1,000 a month in winter, according to Jason McCormick, one of Grandma Millie’s co-owners.
“For six years, the insulation never got done. Every time [the lease] came up for renewal, it was thrown on the back burner,” he said.
He disputed the county’s claim the restaurant was behind, but said he couldn’t comment on the advice of his attorney.