News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


Brooks BBQ

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Independence Day Boat Parade 07-04-20

Independence Day Boat Parade


BOAT PARADE – 3 p.m. Get out for the annual ‘We Love Our Lake’ decorated boat parade. This years theme ‘Lets Celebrate – It’s The 4th Of July.’ All boats welcome from human powered to motor powered and all in between. Participants are reminded to practice social distancing. Parade assembles at 3 Mile Point and proceeds on West Side of the Lake to Lakefront Park, Cooperstown. 518-542-6630 or visit for info.

You’ll Have It TO GO! From Emergency, Novelty: Folks Around County Pick Up Dinners

You’ll Have It TO GO!

From Emergency, Novelty: Folks

Around County Pick Up Dinners

Mel’s at 22 proprietor Brian Wrubleski packs to-go dinners with the help of daughter Alex Gauther, left, and Tomeka Ray. (Jim Kevlin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – At Brooks House of BBQ, the staff can’t answer the phones fast enough.

“We’re going to add additional phone lines,” said owner Ryan Brooks. “They’re just ringing constantly.

Council Rock Brewery’s Kyle Llewellyn fills a “crowler” can – that’s half a growler – as Manager Becky Davidson supervises. (Jim Kevlin/

With Governor Cuomo’s order that all “non-essential” businesses be shuttered, restaurants can no longer accommodate dine-in customers.

“When the quarantines started happening last week, I walked into work and there were no customers coming in,” said Brian Wrubleski, who owns Mel’s at 22, Cooperstown. “It was like someone took something out of my heart.”

Some, like Morey’s and The Depot in Oneonta, the Doubleday Café in Cooperstown and Jackie’s in Milford, simply closed.

Many others, including Mel’s, Brooks, Council Rock Brewery and The Otesaga’s Hawkeye Grill have quickly adapted to take-out and delivery.

“I don’t think a lot of people know which restaurants are open,” said Council Rock’s Becky Davidson. “But it’s always nice to see some friendly faces.”

Take-out isn’t new to Brooks, but the spread of COVID-19 prompted Ryan to move up his plan to add delivery. “We want to help get people the food they want,” he said. “We deliver within a 10-mile radius with no fee, but it’s a $20 minimum order.”

In addition to the company vans – a frequent sight around the county in the summer – Ryan put his own SUV up for delivery. “The crew is having fun in my car,” he said.

Some, like John Shideler, The Otesaga’s new general manager, are finding ways to add new offerings to their “to-go” menu. “We’ve added a grilled salmon so we have a fish offering,” he said. “And we’re absolutely still offering our desserts: We have a new apple cinnamon bread pudding.”

The response, he said, has been strong. “We’re a favorite in the community,” he said. “The community has been so welcoming to me, and we want our customers to feel comfort knowing that we’re still here.”

“We’ve been doing take-out all along with our fish fry, so we had a busy Friday,” said Davidson. “And I posted on Facebook to let people know that our shrimp and garlic pesto fries are still available, so people know they can still get their favorites.”

“It’s a different methodology,” said Wrubleski. “With dine-in, it’s a full-service interaction with the customer. You make the meal look beautiful on the plate. But we’re trying to make it look beautiful in the take-out box too.”

Although face-to-face interaction has been minimized, he’s still finding new ways to interact with his customers. “I do most of the deliveries myself,” he said. “We include two free cookies with every order, and my daughter Alex writes a little message on every one of the boxes.”

Similarly, The Otesaga is including a card from the staff with each order. “When we re-open, they can bring it to The Hawkeye or The 1909 and get a free glass of wine,” said Shideler. “It’s our way of saying thank you to all the people who are supporting us through these difficult times.”

And Wrubleski is concerned about the employees he had to temporarily lay off. “It’s depressing,” he said. “A lot of people in this industry live paycheck-to-paycheck, and I’m trying to support them as best I can.”

In addition to delivery and manning phones, Ryan has shifted some employees to the bottling plant to keep them on payroll. “These are tough times, but we’ll get through them together,” he said.

“Food is comfort,” said Wrubleski. “We like to try and do things to make people happy.”

Brooks BBQ Plan May Help Revive Plaza, East End

Brooks BBQ Plan

May Help Revive

Plaza, East End

Rezoning as a Planned Development District/Industrial-Commercial, would allow Brooks BBQ to expand its bottling operations into the Oneonta Plaza on Route 71, and help revive Greater Oneonta’s East End. (Ian Austin /

By JIM KEVLIN – Special to

ONEONTA –Brooks BBQ may be solicited to put its long-awaited new bottling plant in the former Oneonta Plaza – now home to Towne Flooring, Scholet Furniture’s Outlet and PDQ Services, the copier company, according to Town Supervisor Bob Wood.

Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood

If that resulted in the City of Oneonta running sewer lines into the town along Route 7 east of the city, it would open up the whole East End of Greater Oneonta – Route 7 east of the city line – to a new era of development, the supervisor said.

Brooks BBQ proprietor Ryan Brooks characterized current conversations as “hopes and dreams.”  The company had been looking for a site for a 150,000-square-foot bottling plant expansion as recently as 2017, but has since settled into its plant on the site of its Route 7 restaurant complex, and Brooks doesn’t expect anything to happen “for a while.”

The latest round of conversations was initiated last fall, Wood said, when Olon Archer, who owns the Oneonta Plaza property, sought and received a zoning change on the plaza to Planned Development District/Industrial-commercial; that would open the way for Brooks’ initiative.

That prospect also revived the idea of extending sewer lines from the City of Oneonta into the town, Wood said.

Last week, he brought together representatives of the Big Four East End facilities – Ryan Brooks, Springbrook’s Seth Haight; Gary Smith, the Fox Hospital vice president, and Jeff Feinberg, the Price Chopper Plaza developer – as well as Otsego County Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan.

Previously, the town supervisor said, he canvassed homeowners along that stretch of Route 7, but found little interest in participating in a sewer district, which would require them to pay a fee.  However, he said, the Big Four could create a “transportation corporation” that would allow them to share the cost.

When former Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller first looked at running the sewer line out to Brooks in 2013, the cost estimate he obtained was $1.2 million, Wood said.  While the Big Four were at first enthusiastic about collaboration, an investment in the $300,000 range cooled their enthusiasm, he said.

However, the town has contracted with Delaware Engineering, the engineering consultants, to revisit the cost estimate.

And, the supervisor said, there may be state programs to help meet the cost, or perhaps a “member item” from state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, or other members of the county’s delegation.

Jody Zakrevsky, Otsego Now CEO, was invited to last week’s conversation but unable to attend.  However, he said state economic-development funding would be available if Brooks – and/or the other three entities – were to create new job.

Last time the prospective Brooks expansion was in the news – in 2017, it was in conversations with Otsego Now over “shovel-ready sites” in the former Pony Farm commerce park – it was estimated that 45 new jobs would be created.


Find Fun Items For The Holidays


ANGEL TREE PROGRAM – Give the Gift of Christmas this holiday season. Adopt a family in need. Visit to learn how.

HOLIDAY BAZAAR – 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Elm Park Church is hosting annual holiday bazaar. Christmas decorations, gently used items, and baked goods available. 401 Chestnut St., Oneonta.

Faso Announces NYIB Backing On Oneonta Campaign Stop

Business Group Hosts Faso

On Oneonta Campaign Stop

Congressman John Faso, R-Kinderhook, met with Ryan Brooks, owner of Brooks’ House of BBQ, and Gary Laing, right, owner of the Oneonta Outlaws, during an afternoon event hosted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which endorsed the incumbent congressman. After a spaghetti lunch with Council member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward, at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club, Faso went to Brooks’ Banquet Hall to talk about supporting local small businesses.  Represented were Unalam,  Peachin & Associates, Custom Electronics, Harlem & Jervis Law Office, Bank of Cooperstown, Country Club Auto, Oneonta Block, Pickett Building Supply and the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce.   While he was entering the Sixth Ward Athletic Club, constituent Christina Hunt Wood, Delhi, inset photo, attempted to speak to Faso about what she described as racist attack ads against his Democratic opponent, Antonio Delgado, and sexual-assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but Faso declined to engage.  (Ian Austin/


Museum Members Art Showcase


MEMBERS SHOWCASE – 5:30 p.m. Celebrate talented members of the Art Museum displaying their 2-D artworks. Reception includes food, beverages, secret ballot for member’s choice award. The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1510 or visit

CAREER EXPO – 1 – 3:30 p.m. Businesses showcase organizations to Hartwick students seeking employment, internships. Registration required. Lambros Arena, Hartwick College, Oneonta. 607-431-4064 or visit


Otsego Lake Marathon


RACE THE LAKE – 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Race around the lake includes classes for 26.2 mile, 13.1 mile, 5K races. All races end together at Glimmerglass State Park, Cooperstown. Call 607-547-2800 or visit

KNIT DAY – 1:30 – 3 p.m. Celebrate World Wide Knit in Public Day with the HML Yarn Club. Knitters, Crocheters of all skill levels welcome. Huntington Park, Oneonta. Call 607-432-1980 or visit

SUNY Delhi Bestows Doctorate On Brooks

SUNY Delhi Bestows

Doctorate On Brooks

John Brooks

DELHI – Brooks’ House of BBQ second-generation owner John Brooks will be presented an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at SUNY Delhi’s 101st annual graduation at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 19.

SUNY Delhi President Michael Laliberte called Brooks, one of 11 family members with Delhi degrees, “a passionate advocate and friend whose achievements are inspiring and demonstrate to students the benefits of a SUNY Delhi education.”

From boyhood, Brooks helped his father barbecue chicken at local fund-raisers for not-for-profits. At age 15, his parents built an 80-seat restaurant in Oneonta that all family members helped run.


CCS Senior Play

 ‘Almost, Maine’


SENIOR PLAY – 7 – 9:30 p.m. CCS produciton of “Almost, Maine.” Auditorium, Cooperstown High School. Call 607-547-8181 or visit

LIVING HEALTHIER – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Features fun activities, vendors, a Red Cross Blood Drive, presentations on subjects ranging from preventing Lyme disease to a Tai Chi demonstration. Admission, Free. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. Call 607-547-4230 or visit


Student & Faculty

Cabaret Performance


CABARET NIGHT – 5 p.m. Enjoy an evenings entertainment with FOMA. Features Brooks BBQ, auction, 50/50 raffle, and the student, faculty, & family bands performing. Tickets, $15/adult. Cooperstown High School. Call 607-547-8181 or visit

GALLERY RECEPTION – 5-7 p.m. Opening reception for “Cotton: The soft dangerous beauty of the past.” Exhibit explores both the beauty of cotton and how it prolonged slavery in the US. Reception features gallery talk and dance performance “Cotton in Motion.” Exhibit on display thru 3/16. Martin-Mullen Art Gallery, SUNY Oneonta. Call 607-436-3456 or visit


Rebuilding Schools


‘LOST BOYS’ LECTURE – 5 p.m. Cousins Sebastian Maroundit and Mathon Noi present “Building Minds in South Sudan” discussing their efforts to rebuild schools in their homeland. Celebration Room, Shineman Chapel House, Hartwick College, Oneonta. Info, Dr. Elizabeth Bloom @ (607)431-4945 or email or visit

ART & POETRY CONTEST – 6-9 p.m. This years theme is Blue Skies, Smilin’ At Me: Exploring the Beauty of living a life free of the negative impacts of addiction. Opening gala features the exhibit, poetry reading, awards ceremony, & music. Wilber Mansion, 11 Ford Ave., Oneonta. Info,


‘Empty Bowls’ Benefit Today


EMPTY BOWLS – Noon-2 p.m. Serving homemade soup in your choice of bowl crafted and donated by local potters. Cost, $15 to benefit the local food pantry. Christ Church Parish Hall on Fair Street, Cooperstown. Info,!event/2017/4/1/empty-bowls. To volunteer or donate call (607)547-2627

SOUTH AFRICAN BANQUET – 6-9 p.m. The Mali Education project presents a South African benefit bazaar, dinner and documentary fill titled “Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai,” about the founder of the Green belt Movement in Kenya and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Tickets, $15 adults, $10 children over 5. Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta, 12 Ford Ave, Oneonta. Reservation, call (607)434-3303 or email Info,

Brooks BBQ Bottling Booms; Space Needed

Brooks BBQ Bottling

Booms; Space Needed

Bob Harlem alerts the Otsego Now board of directors this morning that Albany County and Cobleskill are seeking to lure an expansion of the Brooks BBQ bottling plant. With Harlem were fellow county Development Corp. board member Jamie Reynolds, left, and Jim Jordan of Richfield Springs, the architect. (Jim Kevlin/

Albany County, Cobleskill Poaching Jobs;

Otsego Now To Offer Shovel-Ready Site

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – Brooks BBQ’s bottling business has taken off, and it needs an extra 150,000 square feet of space in the next two years to accommodate the growth, Otsego Now’s board of director was advised this morning.

And Otsego Now has just the place:  The shovel-ready site at the former Pony Farm.    “You could be in the ground in 30 days,” CEO Sandy Mathes told the directors.  He, COO Elizabeth Horvath and a board member, Craig Gelbsman, were asked to sit down with Ryan Brooks as soon as possible to see if an arrangement is possible.

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103