Chamber’s New Business of the Year: Ho-Jacks Bar and Grill
CARLTON – Three years ago, Dan Conrad was downsized after 26 years of work at Kodak. After being laid off, Conrad earned a degree in business and looked for an opportunity that would involve his family while also keeping him in Orleans County. Conrad saw potential for a restaurant that had an unstable history. The former Carlton Grill had been opened several times, only to shut down not long after.
Conrad was warned by friends that the site didn’t have a good track record. But he thought he could assemble a team to make it work.
Last Nov. 1 the Conrad family opened Ho-Jack’s Bar and Grill at 1750 Oak Orchard Rd. The venture has gone so well that Ho-Jack’s is expanding its parking lot.
Conrad’s son Tony is the head chef. He is looking to add sub sandwiches and bakery to the location, perhaps by next year.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s rewarding,” Dan Conrad said. “People walk out and say the food is great.” The Chamber of Commerce named Ho-Jack’s the 2013 “Business of the Year.” The Conrads have 15 employees. The business has brought stability to the site, and created a destination on Route 98 between Point Breeze and Albion. Conrad, a Rochester native, enjoys local history. He wanted the restaurant to play up the community’s railroad heritage. The interior has several railroad images, as well as photos of cobblestone structures, fishermen and other local scenes. Ho-Jack’s buys many of its ingredients – fruits and vegetables – from local farms. Tony, 25, graduated from the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute and worked at several local restaurants. He and the kitchen staff prepare mainstays, such as seafood, barbecue, hamburgers and fresh cut French fries. Tony favors his pork delmonico – pork smothered with bourbon glazed peaches. He adds other touches, “hamburgers with a gourmet spin,” his father said.
Dan’s wife Brenda works at Ho-Jack’s, making the desserts. Their daughter Danielle is a bartender. Tony’s wife Crystal is the assistant manager. Other family members also work at the site.
“It’s been a total team effort,” Conrad said. “We have a lot of good help here.”