Saturday, March 25, 2023

Local entrepreneur keeps loyal customers

The sounds of sports games and music flood through the flat-screen TV and sports memorabilia-covered room.

The music is just a taste of what customers can expect when they venture into Chefy’s Bar and Grill.

Owner, Chris Duquette is no stranger to the restaurant scene in Plattsburgh.

Duquette also owns Duke’s Dinner, a favorite among locals for breakfast and lunch.

Duquette has owned Duke’s for 16 years, and he admits at first that he was reluctant to come back to the downtown area.

“I had Duke’s downtown for 10 year. It was hard,” Duquette said. Issues with parking and the competition between restaurants made him relocate.

It seemed to have paid off as Duquette said business tripled after the move.

When it came to the decisions of opening a second restaurant, he wasn’t too concerned.

“I’ve survived the ups and downs [of Duke’s] so I wasn’t worried,” he said.

After doing the same thing for 16 years Duquette admits he was bored and was looking to try something different.

“If I wanted to catch any of the foot traffic, I had to go back downtown,” he said.

Duquette went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University and has worked in the restaurant business since he was 14, when he started by washing dishes.

Duquette says he realized food was a passion of his when he was a junior in high school. Since then he has worked at the White House, PGA National and has been a private chef for a family in the Adirondacks.

Even though Chefy’s has only been open since last December, Duquette is pleased with how the place is doing.
But Duquette said he believes more can be done to get people into Chefy’s.

“A lot of people don’t know we have a separate dining room area right next to the bar,” he said. “We can’t really get people in the door to come eat as of now.”

For most owners there would be some concern, but Duquette is confident he can turn it around. Most of his regulars go back and forth between Chefy’s and Duke’s.

“I’ve been in the community for a while, so I have a good customer base,” he said.

Chefy’s bar manager, Joanne Speiss, agrees with that sentiment. “What I like about [Chefy’s] is that we get a wide variety of ages, professions and people,” she said.

Speiss has worked at Chefy’s since February and has known Duquette for a long time. She believes his reputation gives him an edge.

“People know they’re going to get great service at both places,” she said. “People tend to stay downtown because a lot of the establishments are owned by locals and they like to give back.”

Speiss said the best thing about Chefy’s is the customers.

“We have a lot regulars, so I really enjoy getting to know them. You stay ahead by communicating with your customers and knowing what they want.”

Regulars Kurt and Cheryl Tobrocke, who have known Duquette for almost 10 years, said it’s the atmosphere that separates Chefy’s from other places. “We got a mixture of people here,” Kurt said.

“Anybody that comes here enjoys themselves no matter what age you are,” Cheryl said. “Between the restaurant he has in the day and this place [Chefy’s], he does a lot to support the community.”

Though he has the occasional bad day, Duquette said he loves seeing his customers when he comes into work.

“You connect with them after a while,” he said. “When the day comes I don’t like going to work anymore, that’s when I’m done.”

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