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Crooked Door has new owner with Albion roots

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Joe Martillotta will remain a presence at tavern

Photos by Tom Rivers – Sue Holmes became the owner of the Crooked Door, a tavern at the corner of East State and Brown streets, on April 3. Joe Martillotta, right, and his wife Debbie did extensive renovations of the site and opened Jan. 31, 2011.

ALBION – When Joe Martillotta retired from teaching social studies at Albion in 2009, he pursued a dream of owning a restaurant and bar.

Martillotta bought the former Club 469 on East State Street. It took 16 months to renovate the building along the Erie Canal. Joe and his wife Debbie opened the Crooked Door Tavern on Jan. 31, 2011.

The business employs 17 people, and draws customers from Orleans, Monroe, Genesee, Niagara and Erie counties. Mr. Martillotta worked 110 hours a week that first year in business. The second year he was down to 90 hours a week and then 80 hours weekly the past year.

Martillotta says he has put his heart and soul in the business. He planned to own and operate it for at least five years, but a health scare in December 2012 convinced him the Crooked Door was consuming too much of his life. He has recovered and is fine now.

“It was a wake-up call,” he said.

He and his wife Debbie decided to put the business on the market. They looked for the right fit in a new owner.

Sue (Schafer) Holmes bought the Crooked Door on April 3 after several months of transition. Holmes grew up down the street from the tavern. She remembers it when it was an Italian neighborhood bar.

Sue Holmes said she likes the excitement in the restaurant business and the chance to connect with so many people. Crooked Door is located at 469 East State St.

“I remember the old 469,” she said. “I can’t believe what Joe and Debbie have done to the place. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

Holmes worked as a software engineer for Xerox until the company sold its research and development, and laid her off in December 2012. A Hamlin resident, she set out looking to own a business.

A business broker mentioned the Crooked Door was for sale and Holmes was thrilled to reconnect with her hometown. She had never worked in the restaurant business after a career in a corporate setting.

“I like the excitement and the atmosphere,” she said. “It’s fun touching base with so many people.”

Martillotta also is remaining at the restaurant during a transition time. On Sunday he was the bartender. He is willing to help out where needed.

“I’m thrilled I get to stick around,” Martillotta said. “We’re thrilled to have an Albionite come home to run this. The Crooked Door is in good hands.”

Martillotta is happy to have more time for his family, including grandchildren. On Friday, he and his wife were both off and they saw a show at Shea’s in Buffalo.

Crooked Door is located along the Erie Canal. Sue Holmes bought the business from Joe Martillotta and his wife Debbie. The staff of 17 employees will remain largely unchanged.

He feels at home at the Crooked Door, and he said he has made many friends since the restaurant opened. He praised Holmes for keeping the staff of 17 largely intact. There is one new chef.

Holmes was won over by the “excellent food and service” at the Crooked Door. The staff prepares almost everything from scratch.

“It’s real food,” she said. “It’s not pre-made and frozen.”

Holmes has reconnected with many of her former classmates and friends in the past few months, while meeting many new people.

“It’s a great place and Albion needs this,” Holmes said.

For more on the Crooked Door, visit www.thecrookeddoor.com.