The new owner of Schimschack's, for decades among the most popular restaurants in Niagara County, hopes to reopen it this year with a new name and purpose.
The Upper Mountain Road building will become a venue for weddings and other special events. It will not be a restaurant with regular hours, Michael Kelly of Sanborn said Thursday.
As for when the facility will reopen, "I don't really know yet, because I've got it all ripped apart," Kelly said. "I'm not real sure, but we're hoping for fall of this year."
Kelly, the owner of Niagara Construction Co., bid $130,000 on the property when it was placed up for auction Nov. 8, 2017.
That bid didn't cover the debts former owner James J. Marinello had faced, but Marinello decided to take what he could get, and Kelly took title to the restaurant last March.
Marinello closed the restaurant Oct. 26, 2015, after running into financial problems he couldn't overcome.
Marinello sought bids after trying unsuccessfully for two years after the shutdown to sell the 4,000-square-foot property and 2.8 acres of land on the slope below it. No prospective buyer would meet his $599,000 asking price, later cut to $450,000.
He had owned Schimschack's for 39 years, rebuilding it after a previous restaurant with the same name was destroyed in a fire in 1970.
Perched on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment in the hamlet of Pekin, Schimschack's was known for its sweeping views of Niagara County farmland below. In clear weather, the skyline of Toronto is visible.
Kelly, who lives nearby, said at the time he came to the auction out of curiosity and bid on the spur of the moment.
Kelly said Thursday he's investing "a substantial amount" in renovations. He declined to disclose the new name until he obtains a business certificate.
He said he's been working inside the building since April. Some exterior renovations also are planned, but those "are in the architect's hands," Kelly said.
"We're going to try to incorporate new and old together and see what we come up with," Kelly said.
"He put on a new roof, new insulation, retiled the bathrooms," Lewiston Building Inspector Timothy Masters said.
"It's going to be quite a bit different," Kelly said.
But the huge picture windows on the north side of the building will remain.
"Absolutely. You can't beat that view," Kelly said. "I can't think of any place that has that view as far as a destination or a wedding venue. I think it's centrally located, and I think Niagara County could use it."