PORT BYRON – What once belonged to Brenda is now Brian and Bonnie’s.
The former Brenda’s Diner on Route 31 in Port Byron reopened on October 1 as Potters Farm to Fork, a restaurant run by longtime business partners Brian Potter and Bonnie Buonomo.
Potter, a native of Weedsport, worked on his family’s dairy farm before landing his first “real” job at the village’s Old Erie restaurant, where he worked for 15 years.
These two passions are represented by the name of the new restaurant, he told the Citizen on Wednesday in his back dining room.
“The name evokes my background, growing up on a dairy farm where you learn hard work and what it takes to earn a dollar. It’s not easy, and neither is catering,” he said. declared.
“But there is something very satisfying about making people happy and feeding people.”
Potter moved from Weedsport to Phoenix, Arizona, where he lived and worked in the restaurant business for years before returning to the area. He met Buonomo at the University of Rochester. They worked at a campus hotel until March, when their business owner passed away. He was going to support the opening of a restaurant on campus, but without him, they decided to go it alone.
Potter and Buonomo looked at restaurants in Rochester, then one in the Thousand Islands, but found those markets to be too saturated and seasonal, respectively. So they started looking in Potter’s hometown. The Old Erie, which he attempted to buy in 2005, had deteriorated to the point of being a money pit, he said. They also reviewed Devaney’s Riverside Grill in Weedsport.
After visiting Devaney’s, Potter and Buonomo went to Brenda’s Diner for lunch. When they learned that owner Brenda Hirsch was looking to sell her business, Potter at first hesitated.
“I’ve never been keen on breakfast,” he laughed. “I’m not a morning guy, so that part scared me. I’m a lunch and dinner guy. I like having a bar, and we don’t have a bar here.”
What wowed Potter and Buonomo, however, was the space of the Route 31 restaurant. Besides the traditional counter and seating, it has a dining area several times the size in the back, as well as a private room. that can be used for banquets and other events. With the closure of Old Erie and Devaney, he and Buonomo saw an opportunity to become the new destination for these events.
The partners bought the restaurant in July. They spent the next few months replacing the kitchen equipment and decor and renovating the building with the help of the family.
The menu, Potter said, is “a more accessible farm-to-table version.” The restaurant sources local ingredients when it can, such as beef and pork from the local Rosencrans market in Auburn and products from Owen Orchards in Sennett, whose hard cider is used in a popular Drunken Pork Chop dish. . But Potters doesn’t fully meet the farm-to-table definition, and that’s by design.
“Farm-to-table can scare people with the prices and then you go organic,” Potter said. “For me, it’s more about making it fresh and local, and keeping it affordable for families.”
Likewise, Potters is not a restaurant by name, but its owners have stated that they are not offended to be called one. Diners are “predominantly American,” Potter said, and celebrate farmers and other blue-collar workers like his and Buonomo’s restaurant. They’re also celebrating the community, which Potters does by offering farm workers lifetime 15% discounts and serving baked potatoes loaded with Panther and Warrior. Customers choose between the Port Byron and Weedsport mascots when ordering the potato, and $ 1 of the sale is donated to that school district’s parent-teacher association.
“That’s what makes a small town vibrate,” Potter said. “Everyone helps each other.”
Gallery: Opening of the Potters Farm to Fork restaurant in Port Byron