Johnstown Independent

Old Horseshoe has been new venture for owners

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Patrons eat dinner in the Old Horseshoe Restaurant & Tavern on Thursday evening, Jan. 23. The restaurant has been open since late October.

Nearly a decade ago, Susan Straub laid her eyes on what she thought was the perfect setting.

The architect by trade was looking for a project -- a building to restore. The century-old, two-story brick structure at 65 S. Main St. in the heart of historic Johnstown would become her canvas.

What Straub didn't know at the time is that the building was about to change her life dramatically.

"Sometimes late at night, I think, "What the heck am I doing?' " she said. "But sometimes life steps up and presents you with possibilities, and you've got to take a swing at them."

When the renovations began in 2005, Straub and her husband, Dave, an engineer, intended to sell or lease the property once completed. Three years later, the recession arrived and property values plummeted. The Straubs knew then their plans would have to change.

They were determined, though, to stick with the investment. Last October, the building's rebirth was realized as the Old Horseshoe Restaurant & Tavern opened its doors.

The Straubs have had to learn a new trade quickly.

"David and I are complete rookies at this (restaurant owners), but I got him into this mess, and he has kept his full-time job and helps out on the weekends," Susan Straub said. "Like any new restaurant, we're going through some growing pains, but in general I couldn't be more pleased."

Being new to the restaurant business, Straub described opening night as "one of the toughest of her life."

Then on New Year's Eve, the restaurant's point-of-sale system, which streamlines payment, food preparation and delivery, went offline.

"Really the hardest part has been getting everything dialed in to where it works well," she said. "You go through all that, and then you open the door and stand around and wonder if anybody is going to show up. It's scary and terrifying."

To help manage the restaurant, the Straubs have assembled a team that includes Nicole Askew as general manager.

The couple were insistent on a menu that features locally grown meats, poultry and produce whenever possible. They also wanted to welcome a wide range of patrons with a dinner menu priced from $9 to $30.

In designing the Old Horseshoe, Susan Straub made sure to include a pictorial wall that pays homage to Johnstown and its history.

The building's rebirth also includes a second-floor brick terrace that could host weddings, large gatherings and entertainment.

"I figured it would be empty 90 percent of the time," she said. "But the chef told me that I would book it and he was right. Fridays and Saturdays we have been packed on both floors."

The Straubs also were told the historic downtown location wouldn't work for a restaurant and that it needed to be on U.S. Route 62 to survive.

They wanted to give back to the community, Straub said.

"Johnstown has been amazing," she said. "They couldn't be more supportive. I would have never been able to do this without the help of Johnstown."