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Binnekill Square restaurant has new owner

Square deal! Key to village will be revitalized after long closure

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BACK IN THE DAY — Generations of families made The Square Restaurant their home away from home, celebrating everything from major family milestones to simple schnitzel nights on Thursdays during nearly 40 years of operation. The late Milt Valk, shown here with his granddaughter Elizabeth Ackerley and his great-grandson’s Reid Rowe, left, and the late Lane Rowe, right, was always among the regulars. //— Contributed photo

BACK IN THE DAY — Generations of families made The Square Restaurant their home away from home, celebrating everything from major family milestones to simple schnitzel nights on Thursdays during nearly 40 years of operation. The late Milt Valk, shown here with his granddaughter Elizabeth Ackerley and his great-grandson’s Reid Rowe, left, and the late Lane Rowe, right, was always among the regulars. //— Contributed photo

The iconic Square Restaurant, a Margaretville landmark since 1978 will get a new lease on life this summer thanks to its sale this week by long time owners Walter & Jackie Keller.

There was jubilation throughout the community on Monday afternoon when a final real estate closing was announced by Joan Roberts, Associate Real Estate Broker with Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties (CBTP), who listed the property for sale and whose own connections to the restaurant date back to 1978 when she performed at the piano bar in one of the area’s greatest success stories.

Real estate developer Philip Farinacci, who has worked with Peggy Bellar of the Catskill Dream Team on a series of investments in the region, put the deal together along with his partner Peter Botros and cookbook author Bryan Calvert to bring a new restaurant to the space this summer.

Farinacci talked at length with the News this week and an expanded version of this story, with plans for the future and a recap of the restaurant’s storied history, appears on the News’ website catskillmountainnews.com

“You’re not supposed to fall in love with the properties when you’re a realtor,” Roberts said on Monday. “But I’ve loved Walter and Jackie for decades and when Chef Bryan Calvert came looking for a restaurant to buy, I was thrilled. He’s a very accomplished chef and I’m excited that we were able to help make this happen for him.”

Bellar sensed a great match between investor and community when Farinacci called her last year wanting to see the restaurant. “Phil owns restaurants, he understands what is needed and he does his work in a really philanthropic way,” she told the News.

Making investments

“I’ve bought four properties in the area and my goal is to semi-retire here,” said the developer. “We’re encouraged by what’s happening at the bowling alley and Oakley’s and think this is a good time for the community.” Farinacci said he and Botros, an Executive Chef from Staten Island own The Stone House at Clove Lakes, Violette’s Cellar and the Corner House BBQ and were looking to do something up here, but “we needed a chef. Bryan was looking for an investor. It all worked out.”

Farinacci, who said each of their restaurants donates profits to designated non-profits, anticipates the new restaurant will be open this summer, but was not sure of an exact date because of weather and other considerations. He said they will likely pick a different local charity to support each quarter, mentioning the Food Pantry and the Humane Society as two that will definitely benefit when the restaurant opens.”

Calvert’s cookbook Brooklyn Rustic: Simple Food for Sophisticated Palates may provide some insight into the type of foods to be served. Called a “pioneer who helped make Brooklyn the new center of American food.”

Sees winning formula

Calvert lives in Andes and has been a frequent presence in the community. Jackie Keller thinks he’ll have a winning formula. “I liked him,” she said of the restaurant operator, “and I think he really loves the space.” Keller, who with her husband Walter, leased and eventually bought The Square, was as happy as everyone else in the community.

Farinacci says he’s heard a lot about what made The Square such an important part of people’s lives and he plans to replicate much of it.

“We’re going to open it up a bit, brighten it up a bit,” he said. “But much of what people loved will still be there when we open this summer.”

Farinacci said there will likely be some permanent menu items inspired by Walter Keller.

“So far, I’ve heard about the schnitzel, the escargot and the potted shrimp,” said Farinacci. “Hopefully Walter will help us recreate those.”


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