Nestled behind the Perry Village Garage - at 18 S. Federal St., Perry, lies The Lumber Yard. While it was an actual lumber yard at one point, by the 1970s, it was opened as a restaurant.
And it was popular from the get-go.
“It was a rockin’ place back in the 1970s when bands played on the weekends. People actually hung from the rafters to urge the band on."
So says Robin Brown, who along with his wife, Regina, became owners of eatery on Aug. 5.
They acknowlege that they are the beneficiaries of the business acumen of Kevin and Ann Bohn, the second owners, who enjoyed 32 of success before deciding to hand the reins over to others.
The Brown's experience with the restaurant dates back to the '80s. Robin began working there in 1982. Although his employment there was on again, off again type situation, he kept his hands in the business for the better part of 30 years. Regina started out as a waitress in 1999 and quickly moved up, to bartender, hostess and finally, manager.
Eventually, fate stepped in.
“I came home one day and said to Regina ‘We’re gonna buy The Lumber Yard.’ It took her two months to decide and then she said ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
“My first thought when Robin came to me with the idea -- I said to him - ‘What? Are you nuts? We’re in our 50s. He was so sure we could keep it going.”
“Keep it alive,” Robin said. “The place was so beautiful and we wanted to carry it on. Kevin wanted to retire and we wanted to keep this place alive.”
The Browns are, most certainly, "carrying on" with the family-oriented, casual/fine dining atmosphere that is The Lumber Yard's hallmark.
Currently, there are two menus -- lunch and dinner. Both are served Tuesday through Friday; dinner only is served Saturdays; brunch and dinner are served Sunday; and the restaurant is closed Mondays. (The only exception is Columbus Day weekend -- the same weekend of Letchworth’s Arts and Crafts Show; that's the only Monday when they are open.)
The menu includes steak, seafood and prime rib, along with select beer on tap and wines. The soup and salad bar open are always open.
Robin is the head chef and he boasts that "This is the place for prime rib. I make the best prime rib around."
He is proud to note that they can accommodate customer orders, such as various types of meat and veggie platters.
Nephew Brandon Brown is also a chef, as well as manager, when Robin or Regina are not there.
“It’s been great owning this place,” Regina said. "We make home-baked breads, pies, desserts. We’re getting lots of great compliments.”
Desserts include peanut butter pie, Snickers pie, cheesecakes, chocolate and white chocolate silk pies.
"I just bought peaches from a local stand," the chef said. "They are big and plump, I think I just may make peach crisps with them."
Although Western New York’s growing season is fairly short, he says he "gets as much locally as he can, but the season just doesn’t last long enough. ... I just bought these big beautiful eggplants. I use them for eggplant parmesan, in soups and also roasted for our seafood-pasta dish. I get my best thoughts as I’m driving down the road.”
When it comes to his kitchen, Robin is like a kid who just walked into the largest toy store. With rapid enthusiasm, he tells about the two mixers he recently purchased: “They are fantastic. Both are KitchenAids, which usually retail at about $400, but I got them for 30! ... I can’t wait to use them.”
Robin’s excitement about the mixers, as well as his constant thought of new dishes to serve readlily apparent.
“If you want it and we have the ingredients, we’ll make it.” Robin said. “I brought in some fresh calamari from Maine; It went over great. I make this dish, the Lumber Yard Calamari, and it’s seasoned with lemon, tomatoes, pepperoncinis, olive oil and garlic; and toss it over a bed of spring mix greens. I’m always coming up with new ides and new options. I get bored easy, so I’m always coming up with new stuff.”
But origins are not forgotten.
“Some of the older folks that come here remember when it was a lumber yard,” Regina said.
According to the Brown’s, William H. Hawley Jr., clerk of the New York State Assembly in the late 1800s, founded what became the Hawley Lumber Company, in 1901, on this site. Known locally as the Hawley Lumber Yard, it supplied goods to farmers and masons. By 1909, buildings in the red barn wood style had been erected. Fred Hawley Sr., took over the business in 1912 and ran it continuously for 61 years until his death in 1973.
The main shed, which now houses the dining hall, was build in 1923. It was designed with the wide openings at the north and south ends so that horse drawn wagons, and later trucks, could be driven in one end, loaded from the first or second floor, and driven out. The original office was in the building located near Federal Street. A new business office was added to the main shed in 1940 and now houses the rest rooms and offices. The show and other buildings which were located in the present parking area, served as saw mills, horse barns, lumber sheds, window and door manufacture, and there was even a long trolley to feed large logs through milling and planing sheds.
According to Robin, Mr. Hawley still "frequents" The Lumber Yard.
"He doesn't like spaghetti and meatballs," Regina said. "I keep putting it is POS (point of sale), but it always disappears."
The Brown’s also say Mr. Hawley's ghost can often be found in the office or the kitchen.
“We catch a glimpse of him in the shadows or get a slight chill when he is around,” Robin said.
Though the Browns worked at the restaurant for several years off and on, they didn’t actually meet until 2001 and started dating a year later. In 2013, Robin and Regina married and had their reception at, naturally, The Lumber Yard.
It's a nice place for events.
“Rehearsal dinners, baby showers, conferences,” Regina said. “We encourage them. We can have wedding receptions here. However, the restaurant will still be open for regular customers.”
They say they plan to increase their catering capabilities, but for now they bring dinners or lunches to meetings, and also cater to those on the go.
Regina takes care of the business end of operation, as well as hosts and trains new employees, prepping them for heavier holiday traffic.
It’s always best to have a reservation during the major holidays. While brunches are a huge success for Mother's and Father's days, Easter, and even Valentine's Day; they get many of their customers from Letchworth State Park and Silver Lake, making Summer their best time of the year. December is strong due to businesses holding their Christmas parties at The Lumber Yard; and New Year’s Eve dinners are also gaining in popularity.
“Two girls, they were sisters, from Buffalo, and (they) Googled ‘places to eat nearby’ when they were at Letchworth this summer,” Regina said. “They thought ours (restaurant) was just a small-town place to eat. They were amazed at the place (The Lumber Yard).”
To make reservations, call: 585-237-3160. Information and menus can be found at: www.lumberyardrestaurant.com.