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Green Shutters' future at a new crossroads
GREEN SHUTTERS

Green Shutters' future at a new crossroads

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OWASCO | After two years in charge of the business, the father-son duo that's been operating Green Shutters restaurant in Owasco won't be returning for another season.

Phil and Nick Siracusa said they decided in July to close their doors on Sept. 21 and informed the owner of the property, Bob Leonardi, that they would not be returning.

"We decided a few months ago and gave him our intent not to renew the lease," said Phil. "Our relationship with him has been great and it's nothing personal. It's just business."

Nick Siracusa took over control of the restaurant at the start of the 2012 season, after spending six years working there under previous management. He said he and his father had one main goal for Green Shutters: to restore the local landmark to its previous glory days.

"We really wanted to bring it back to what it was like in the '60s, and I think we've achieved that," said Phil. "This is a location that should be booming, and with the help of Mr. Leonardi we were able to turn this business around."

Both Phil and Nick said that in the two years they have been operating the restaurant, it's been very successful and money did not factor into their decision to close. But being a seasonal operation, Green Shutters leaves little room for the Siracusas to expand a business the way they would like to.

"It's disappointing because it's a successful business, we didn't fail by any stretch of the word," Nick said. "This has been a part of my life for almost a decade, but we weighed all the options and this was our decision in the end."

Leonardi said that when he agreed in 2012 to lease the restaurant to Nick, he saw potential in his commitment to hard work and learning new things. Now, looking back on the time he spent running Green Shutters, Leonardi said Nick did not disappoint him.

"I mentored him myself and he was a promising young student from the time he was 14," he said. "He's a very bright young man and he now has a lot of opportunities ahead of him, and I certainly don't begrudge him that."

With eight years of restaurant experience now under his belt, Nick is looking at locations where he may be able to open a business that he can fully make his own. But as Green Shutters prepares to close for the season, many locals and longtime customers are now left to remember the impact that the Siracusas had on the restaurant and how they helped it thrive.

"This place brought back a lot of memories for me of what it used to be like here, and I think the community felt the same way," said Barbara Walsh, a longtime Auburn-area resident and a regular customer at Green Shutters.

Walsh recalled growing up in Auburn in the 1960s, when her father owned Jitch's Hot Dog Stand that was located just across the street from Green Shutters, near Emerson Park. She said there was nothing like seeing the streets nearby lined with cars and buzzing with customers, and said she is grateful to the Siracusas for being able to bring that feeling back to Owasco.

"They made it a popular place again," Walsh said.

For Walsh, there are many things that made Green Shutters worth frequenting, including the great food, but the atmosphere is what she will miss the most. She said the Siracusas always welcomed all their customers with a smile and provided a warm, family-friendly atmosphere that made customers want to return.

Phil and Nick agreed that the atmosphere of the restaurant and the people they've met over the years will be the hardest thing to walk away from when they leave.

"We both like to walk around and stop at tables and give it a really personal touch," said Phil. "It's nostalgic here, and people like that."

Although the Siracusas will no longer be running the restaurant after this year, some locals hope that there is still a future for the business, especially after all the work that has gone into it recently. Bernie Simmons, a regular customer who operates local restaurants himself, said he hopes Leonardi is able to find someone else to take over the business and continue what the Siracusas were able to restore.

"Every time you come in you have to wait for a seat," he said. "There are people here again constantly and it was great to see."

Leonardi, who has owned the property for 15 years, said he plans to have the restaurant open again next year and has already begun to interview possible replacements to take over when the current operators leave. He said he is thankful that the Siracusas were able to do so well and is confident that when he finds a new operator, Green Shutters will continue to succeed.

"I'm glad I did lease it to Nick and his father, but now it's time to think and recharge my batteries a bit and see where we go from here," he said. "Everyone in Auburn has all different kinds of backgrounds, but the one thing they have in common is that they love good food, and we're going to find someone who can continue that tradition that Green Shutters has set."

Nick said he hopes that the loyal customers who have made his time at Green Shutters so special will be there with him in whatever endeavor he chooses to pursue next. He plans to bring the menu that he and his father have created, along with the 48 employees he has had on staff during the summer, along on his next venture.

Nick said the restaurant is holding a customer appreciation week during its last few days of business, and he is planning something special for Saturday night, as well, to officially say goodbye to the business that has taught him so much over the last eight years.

"We just want to thank them for a wonderful experience," said Phil. "We have a lot of friends here, old and new, and we're really going to miss it."

Staff writer Kelsey Durham can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or kelsey.durham@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenDurham.

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