OSWEGO — A new diner is opening in downtown Oswego with a location familiar to many.
Fulton native and 25-year Oswego resident Sherry Babcock is launching Sherry’s Downtown Diner in the historic Buckhout-Jones Building at the northeast corner of West First and West Bridge streets.
Babcock told The Palladium-Times this week she’ll offer hungry patrons a homemade meal — and a bit more.
“It's going to be all the traditional diner food, except everything will be made by me, not packages,” she said. “When Friendly’s closed, it took more away than just a restaurant.”
It was a sad day for fans of classic American fare when the Friendly’s on West Bridge Street unexpectedly shuttered in April 2019, part of a nationwide bankruptcy restructuring of the company. For dozens of staff members and hundreds of families in the Port City, it represented the loss of a “place of community,” according to Babcock.
“I want to give that back,” she said.
Sherry’s Downtown Diner will be located at 7 W. Bridge St., adjacent to the Children’s Museum of Oswego. The space that has seen a number of eateries come and go in recent years including Dino’s House of Burgers and Hanabi sushi bar.
Babcock is a lifetime vet of the service industry, beginning with her first restaurant job at 15 years old and she most recently held the position of Friendly’s General Manager from March 2015 until the location closed.
Now, she wants to replicate the familiar feeling of a family-owned establishment at her own establishment in the heart of the Port City.
“When I was a manager of a franchise, there were guidelines and we were given quotas to meet. We did that and only that,” she said. “I want it to be comfortable, like you came to my home and ate dinner as part of my family.”
Patrons can expect a relaxing dining experience complemented by a soothing color pallet for the dining room including grey, black, teal and some yellows. Babcock said the menu options available would further punctuate a home-style feeling with “classic diner dishes,” as well as family-style dinners to go or at the table.
Babcock is anticipating an opening for Dec. 1. Her team will be “ready for any situation that they are met with” and have specifically planned for the potential of a “take-out only scenario” similar to what diners faced earlier this year amidst the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are preparing for whatever scenario is put in front of us,” she said.
Babcock has not fully organized her staff, she said but plans to bring on a team focused on providing the best service available to customers.
“(The team will have) the same morals, ethics and beliefs that I do. We want to be part of the community and make it more than just a place to eat,” Babcock said. “Our service will be fast, small and intimate.”
The new eatery location, right in the center of the downtown area, will be a pinch of variety for anyone living in the developing downtown community.
“I wanted to be downtown. I wanted to be available to everyone and easy to be found,” Babcock said.
Many new businesses have been introduced in downtown Oswego in recent years, and city officials are excited to see another addition for residents to enjoy.
"We are excited about the introduction of another small business occupying a key storefront location in our core downtown area,” said Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow. “As we bring new downtown residential living units online, it is important to have a variety of dining options and other attractions in the area. Hence, a small diner is a good use for this location.”
As part of the city’s overall strategy to infuse cash and renewal into the downtown corridor, Sherry’s received a $28,500 commercial loan to help development.
“We remain committed to assisting new and existing business owners in Oswego to ensure continued growth and success for our small business community," Barlow said.
Sherry’s will have enough seating for a total of 44 diners, but will enforce social distancing and other COVID restrictions upon opening, as required by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Babcock anticipates using her outside space during the spring and summer to accommodate diners who wish to eat al fresco.
For more information or updates about the diner’s progress, find Sherry’s Downtown Diner on Facebook or send an email to email@example.com.