In what appears to be a continuing trend, yet another North Tonawanda expatriate is tapping back into the city she once called home.
Carol Tallichet, is in the process of renovating the former Niagara River Yacht Club, which she is leasing from the city and plans to open by Memorial Day.
She grew up on Thompson Street in the Lumber City, graduated from the high school then married a Texas man who launched the much-lauded Speciality Restaurants Corp., which now runs 21 restaurants across the nation, including Templeton Landing in the City of Buffalo.
Tallichet, who spends winters living in southern California, said she has routinely visited the area each summer, though when her husband passed away those trips became more frequent and lengthy.
She purchased a home along the Niagara River and was driving along River Road one day last year when she saw a for sale sign near the empty clubhouse south of Gratwick-Riverside Park.
“Apparently it had been off and on the market for a while,” she said. “And it was love at first sight.”
Tallichet reached out to the city to query the state of the property and plans for its development. It was perfect timing.
With her links to the corporation, which specializes in restaurants in airports and on waterfronts, Tallichet submitted a proposal last fall, just as several other proposals were coming in. The city quickly jumped on her interest and within a few months, an agreement was formed.
Finding another tenant has been a long haul for officials, who have had to contend with the crumbling property and dilapidated marina that will cost about $1 million to fix.
But Tallichet, a majority share holder with the company during the last several decades and its vice president, said she has been deeply involved with the inner-workings of the restaurant business and knows how to bring them back to life.
That’s what she finds intriguing about the property, which has sat vacant for the last seven years, and the chance to make a personal and effective impact on the once vibrant city where she grew up. While she has the connection to the company her husband founded, this endeavor will be entirely undertaken on her own.
“I initially wanted the company to do something here, “Tallichet said. “But they said it was too small. That’s how I really ended up taking it up myself.”
A complete redo on the interior of the structure will begin this winter, and when complete there will be enough room for a 50-seat dining room. A sweeping deck has already been put in place — substituting an older, smaller and more rickety version — that now hugs the banks of the river and adds the capacity for at least 70 more patrons. And a sprawling crescent-shaped fire pit will be installed on a parcel along the river’s edge.
Tallichet said she wants to keep the menu simple and in line with what locals and boaters want, so she’ll stick to homemade fast food fare like burgers, sausages and hot dogs, with a wine and beer list to start.
Following the lead of others who have returned to North Tonawanda, like the East Hill Foundation run by the Greatbatch family, Tallichet said she is open to expanding on her current concept with special events and the like.
“I’ve been away, but now I feel like I’m as local as you can get,” she said.
City engineer Dale Marshall said the city is moving toward following her agenda, with work beginning in March on the marina, boater pedestals, retaining walls and dredging.
“We have a lot of work to do to get that done,” he said. “I really want that to happen by Memorial Day. That’s our goal.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.