NIAGARA FALLS – At just 22 years old, opening your own restaurant seems like a big leap – but not if your name is Weber.
Emory Weber, who will turn 23 at the end of this month, is set to soon open the Third Street Retreat, at the corner of Third Street and Rainbow Boulevard, with his girlfriend, Kallie Castetter, 22. But this plan is not on a lark. Running a restaurant is a family tradition for Weber.
He grew up in Youngstown where his grandmother, Quain Weber, owned the former Fyfe and Drum Restaurant and Inn. It has since closed due to a fire.
His dad, Shawn Weber, had worked there until he opened his own restaurant, Wine on Third, also in Niagara Falls.
Now Emory, who grew up working in the family business, is ready to strike out on his own.
The restaurant will be located in the Jefferson Apartments, which his father and grandmother own with a group of partners. The restaurant, located on the lower level, takes the place of Murphy’s Café, which closed in September. Unlike Murphy’s, which only served breakfast, Weber and Castetter plan to be a trendy restaurant serving breakfast all day, chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches and salads, as well as wine and beer.
“There will be a lot of Western New York comfort food with our own twist,” Weber said.
Located at 250 Rainbow Boulevard, the establishment will be a little hard to find, since the entrance is on Third Street, but a sign with an arrow proclaiming “Third Street Retreat” was approved by the city and is expected to help out a bit.
People can park in the city lot or the Jefferson lot and parking will be validated on the way out.
The NFC Development Corp. approved a $10,000 micro-enterprise grant and a $10,000 loan for the project in December.
Why did you decide to open a restaurant?
For my entire life my family has always had a restaurant … I remember being a kid running around in the restaurant.
I guess that can make you either love or hate it.
We haven’t really had a family operation that we’ve had for 40 years like some families, since we’ve had separate restaurants.
What other restaurants did you have?
My dad owns the wine bar, Wine on Third. We do live music and have a tapas menu. It was a pretty trendy idea and place at the time. Instead of going to a place that had five or six wines we had about 60 wines by the glass.
Did you work for your dad?
Yes. I worked at that restaurant for six years. I’m 22 right now.
You started pretty young.
I started doing dishes and then I started doing prep and pantry. I’ve cooked, bused, bartended and served. I was general manager for a year too.
How did this idea percolate to work with Kallie.
My stepmom, Bernadette Brennen, runs the study abroad program at Niagara University. I took one semester off and went to Europe. (Kallie went to St. John’s University, Niagara’s sister school, and she also went abroad). We went to Rome and Spain and Paris. We met in Rome and lived right next to each other. I asked her where she was from and she said Upstate New York. She was from Syracuse and I was from Buffalo. It was just weird to meet there. Out of the 75 people there, other than my two buddies who are from here, she was the closest person to where I lived.
Did you both share an interest in food?
We just loved to explore. We would just wander the streets and give (different foods and restaurants) a shot.
This restaurant is kind of small, like somewhere you would find if you were exploring.
It’s only 1,100 square feet. The front area is the waiting area with an old Asteroids video game. The (downstairs) is open seating and upstairs we have a loft with a pool table and dart board.
Castetter adds: We want this to be like a place we found in Brooklyn, very vintage, old-school, diner, pub. A cool place to hang out.
It’s almost hidden.
That’s where we got the name. It a hideout. It’s tucked away.
Since your dad was in the restaurant business, is this something you were destined to do?
Honestly, no. I was a finance major when I went to school. I enjoy computing numbers for a business. Working in the restaurant business so long as a manager and a cook, I can see where the dollars are going.
This is located inside an apartment building so you will have a lot of built-in customers, won’t you?
We are going to offer room service to tenants. We are going to build a rewards program. This apartment building is ranked as one of the nicest apartment buildings in Niagara County. It’s just awesome. We had a gentleman paint the lobby and he did it all by hand. It’s very secure. There’s about 40 cameras. There’s 94 apartments and they are all full, 129 or 130 people.
People might say that you are young to open up your own business.
Castetter responds: People who know us the best won’t say that. Emory’s parents expected that of him.
What about your location. Do you think Third Street has a lot of potential?
I’ve been at the Wine Bar for so long and I’ve seen the growth. It’s not just the restaurants growing, but there’s more tourists every year. That’s undeniable.
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