It’s hard work opening a restaurant, even with 20 years of experience and a lot of planning. Just ask Jessica Hollenbeck, the owner of the Union Café, a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week on Upper Union Street in Schenectady.
Hollenbeck began her career in the restaurant business over 20 years ago as a waitress, and she has gradually moved up through the ranks. She worked at the Windmill Diner in Amsterdam for a long time, and after it closed, she decided to open her own restaurant with her fiancé and business partner, Ron Dikas.
Hollenbeck knew the restaurant side of the business. She knew how to plan menus; she knew how to order food; she knew how to choose suppliers. But the very difficult process of opening a restaurant from scratch was an eye opener for her.
First, Hollenbeck had to choose a location. She selected Upper Union Street in Schenectady because she lived in the city and because the Upper Union Street area has many successful businesses. Once she selected the location, she had to start dealing with money issues. She needed to get money for building renovations, food, décor, appliances and employees. This was difficult and time-consuming.
After Hollenbeck arranged for financing, there were many more things that she had to learn. She had to get permits for renovations, so she had to deal with City Hall. There were code violations that had to be fixed before the restaurant could open. She had to have all new electricity and plumbing installed. This, combined with the death of a relative, stalled the opening of the Union Café for about a year.
Now all of that is behind her, and the Union Café has been open for over a year and is thriving. The restaurant is busy and successful, often leaving her little time for herself. She is at the restaurant from the time that they open until they close, and she has to stay late to clean up and place orders. It is a job that she loves, however. She says that she could never have a desk job. She likes interacting with her customers and making them happy.
All of her hard work has paid off.