Skaneateles, NY, (WBNG Binghamton) While Adam and Kim Weitsman were building their dream house at the northern end of pristine Skaneateles Lake they felt something was missing. “My wife and I decided we wanted to give something back to the community because we are so thankful to be here and for everything that life has blessed our family with,” said Adam Weitsman.
When the couple learned at the last minute that the historic The Krebs restaurant was for sale, it sparked a unique idea that will preserve a Skaneateles treasure and provide a way to generate significant dollars each year to help needy Onondaga County residents through donations to Onondaga charities focusing on children and hunger.
Phil Romano, a world renowned restaurateur and founder of hundreds of successful restaurants including but not limited to Fuddruckers and Romano’s Macaroni Grille, has been mentoring Adam Weitsman on the project. Born in Auburn, New York, Romano has a summer home on Skaneateles Lake. “I like Adam and his wife. He expressed a desire to try to take The Krebs and do something with it. He had to do the right thing to make it work. I think that the preservation of The Krebs is very important for the people of Skaneateles and any help I can give Adam in accomplishing this I will be doing.”
“We saw The Krebs as a challenge to save what has become an institution in the Finger Lakes Region while reinvigorating the restaurant into a world-class, sustainable, profitable enterprise with a philanthropic mission. We are not going to take one dollar out of the business. All net profits will be shared among Onondaga County food banks and other charities. Even if the business isn’t profitable, we will donate a minimum of $100,000 dollars a year to feed the hungry and help children. But we will work our hardest to deliver a much larger contribution!” said Adam Weitsman.
Kathleen Stress, director of internal operations for the Food Bank of Central New York said of the Weitsman announcement. “It’s fabulous. I wish more people would walk through the door and say they want to give a minimum of $100,000 dollars a year. I think the fact that they have recognized hunger does exist and they want to help the community and release profits back to the food banks and charities to help children is amazing. The face of hunger has changed. What was once the homeless man on the street is no longer considered the face of poverty…now it’s a family of four or more. Some have lost their jobs so they have to make ends meet by visiting a food pantry or receiving other assistance to get by. We found that roughly 37 percent of emergency food recipients visiting pantries and soup kitchens are children under the age of 18. That is a startling statistic here in central New York.” An Onondaga County official estimated that of a county population of approximately 450,000 there are over 26,600 cases of either individuals or families receiving food stamps.
The Krebs, founded in 1899 by Cora Krebs was passed down through the family to Larry Loveless. He and his wife Jan ran the restaurant for 46 years until her death in July. Larry Loveless wanted to retire, but also wanted The Krebs to continue in the tradition of hospitality that has made it famous through three-generations of family ownership, or he would be forced to close the restaurant and sell the real estate.
Larry Loveless’s daughter, Lori Loveless Gray, commented on the transaction. “I am very happy for my dad to take his retirement. When I heard that the Weitsman’s were going to buy, renovate and donate the profits to food banks I was very excited. I think it’s wonderful and a very generous thing to do. To have the Krebs name is a huge honor and what he is going to do with the profits is just fantastic. I was just overwhelmed hearing what he was going to do with it.”
The $1,050,000 sale of the 2.46 acre property includes the restaurant and two adjacent houses that will be used for staff quarters. The restaurant will close in the fall and reopen next spring. During that time renovations totaling $1,850,000 are planned for a new kitchen, making the restaurant handicapped accessible, landscaping and other improvements. Upgrades will preserve the antique ambiance of the upstairs tavern and main dining room. The Krebs will keep its famous seven-course, old-fashioned dinners supplemented by an affordably priced upscale menu that will incorporate more locally produced vegetables to support area farmers.
Gary Robinson, owner-operator of the highly successful Rosalie’s Cucina restaurant in Skaneateles was named as the new general manager of The Krebs. “I am very excited about the opportunity. What Adam is doing by keeping The Krebs is really a tremendous thing and he’s doing it for all the right reasons. The Krebs is over 100-years old and its right in the heart of the Village and if Adam didn’t purchase it and keep it as The Krebs who knows what would have become of it. When I talk to restaurateurs abound the world they all know The Krebs. It’s truly an institution. We are looking to make it one of the best destination restaurants in the east with the finest food and finest service.”
The Krebs, one of the most famous dining spots in Finger Lakes region, received national attention when Bill and Hillary Clinton dined there in 1999 while vacationing in Skaneateles. It has come far from humble beginnings in 1899 when Fred and Cora Krebs started serving their neighbors. Board included three meals a day and cost $8.00 per week. Dinner was 50 cents. The Weitsman’s plan to retain The Krebs early American décor and elegance--furnished with antiques, lace curtains, linen table cloths and fresh flowers from a formal English garden.
“We want to continue the legacy the Krebs and Loveless families have established. Take something that is already great and make it even better for the loyal patrons of the restaurant, for the economic stability of Skaneateles, but most of all for the needy of Onondaga County who will benefit from the proceeds,” said Weitsman.
Adam Weitsman is president of Upstate Shredding and Ben Weitsman & Son, the largest privately held scrap metal processor and recycling center in the eastern U.S. The company was recently awarded Business of the Year by the Tioga County Chamber of Commerce. In January, he donated his 200-piece collection of 18th and 19th Century American stoneware to the New York State Museum. 40 unique vessels from the collection titled Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection are currently on exhibit at the Albany New York Metropolis Gallery.