On February 18th Terry Meron flew home from a visit with his grandsons in Denver. A few days later he showed up for work and he has been there every day since. Meron is the owner/operator of five businesses on Route 3 in Plattsburgh: Comfort Inn and Suites, Plattsburgh Brewing Company, Eclipse Fitness, Champy’s Fun City Family Entertainment Center, and Perkins Restaurant & Bakery. His overall vision was to combine the businesses under one roof in order to create “compatible synergistic uses,” thereby increasing overall sales. Business was good until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and New York State order shut downs in March.
TERRY MERON IS THE SOLE OWNER OF CHRISTOPHER’S RESTAURANT,
INC., THE OPERATING COMPANY FOR FIVE BUSINESSES AT THE COMFORT INN COMPLEX ON ROUTE 3 IN PLATTSBURGH: THE 112 ROOM COMFORT INN AND SUITES, THE 186 SEAT PERKINS RESTAURANT AND BAKERY, THE 150 SEAT PLATTSBURGH BREWING COMPANY, THE 17,000 SQUARE
FOOT ECLIPSE FITNESS HEALTH CLUB AND THE 12,000 SQUARE FOOT CHAMPY’S FUN CITY, A FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT CENTER.
“I’m not entirely sure the industry will bounce back from this to any normal level before summer of 2021,” Meron observed, “and that is an optimistic assessment.” With close to five decades in business, and having overcome a devastating fire at the Comfort Inn in 2008, Meron isn’t being dramatic. If anything, he is being optimistic. Most of his time at work has been devoted to research, both on the survival of the industry and best practices for moving a hospitality business in a healthful direction for his employees and the community he is driven to serve.
During my interview with Meron we talked primarily about his ground floor restaurant, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery (PR&B). Founded in the late 1950s PR&B has locations in over half of the United States. Its homestyle menu and focus on customer service and satisfaction were just some of the reasons Meron felt the franchise would be a good fit for his synergistic business model.
Meron likened his approach to business as that of an athlete. “Make no mistake about it, business is a competitive event just like sports. The energy and effort put in positively correlates to the outcome and those that have the best training and the best coaching usually win,” he observed.
When Meron went looking for a General Manager for Perkins, he found all he was looking for and more in Jason Kozilsky. Originally from the Saratoga area, Kozilsky served with the U.S. Army’s 2nd 108th Infantry Unit in Afghanistan. Returning stateside, he continued with the Army as a recruiter. When it came time for his discharge, he took a job as an assistant kitchen manager with PR&B in 2010, just after the restaurant’s rebuild. His work ethic, leadership and performance helped him ascend the ranks in the restaurant and in 2013 Kozilsky was made the General Manager. Meron offered, “He really is one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with.” When asked about how he handles the stress of the kitchen and transitioning to the front of house, Kozilsky responded modestly, “The military taught me to maintain my composure under stress and accomplish
my goals regardless of the challenges.”
And there have been some challenges. Research gathered by national professional associations makes the point that while zoom meetings and work from home initiatives have bridged the gap to the new normal for some industries, the hospitality industry hasn’t fared as well. The shut down and the closed U.S./Canada border have delivered a one-two punch, challenging the success of all five of Meron’s businesses. The lion’s share of their profitability has always been during the summer months but the Meron/Kozilsky duo has not been put off by being knocked back and they will not do anything reactionary.
Meron shared, “It’s important that we really take the time, make the investments and share the information with people, so they feel safe. We want to be absolutely transparent about the measures we take with our businesses, for our staff and for our guests. The community needs to know when they are ready to come out again, we will be here and it will be safe to come see us and stay with us.”
Employees all wear face mask and do their best to practice social distancing at work and at work-stations. Every employee has their temperature checked via a medical grade infrared temperature probe and they have hand sanitizing stations at every restroom and entrance/exit. As a sign of his unyielding commitment to the safety and the well-being of his community, Meron invested in what he described as the “safest, most through method of cleaning. We disinfect everything with an electrostatic sprayer* and we use Pure Green 24, a natural antimicrobial disinfectant which is safe enough to use on baby toys.” He continued, “We have MERV 13 filters in our HVAC units which allow 10 percent fresh air intake. Our complex of businesses has opened the vents to allow maximum intake of outside air.
And so, when Clinton County entered Phase IV, enabling the majority of staff to return to work, the restaurant was ready with a delivery service. “We were always looking at increasing our “To-Go” delivery business,” Kozilsky explained. “We are working with a new point of sale system to enhance our online ordering. We even offer free delivery within a five miles radius of the restaurant. People are responding and it’s a growth opportunity.”
When asked about how he and Kozilsky embrace each day and resist succumbing to a sense of defeat, Meron observed with a smile, “When something bad happens, we really try to make something good come out of it.” It appears that even being made to do a pandemic pivot will not dampen the spirit of hospitality at Perkins Restaurant and Bakery.
*Electrostatic spray is electrically charged, allowing the appropriate sanitizers, mold preventatives and disinfectants to wrap around and evenly coat all types of surfaces for a more complete clean. As the chemical exits the electrostatic sprayer, it’s given a positive electrical charge. The droplets then become attracted to all negative surfaces – such as tables, chairs, bathroom fixtures — covering the visible area, underside and backside, with the sanitizing agent. Surfaces that are already covered with droplets will repel the spray, making the method extremely efficient.
Perkins Restaurant & Bakery
411 Route 3
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
518 518 561-6222