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Building Friendships

Chautauqua Restaurant Supply To Close After 30 Years

Pictured, from left, manager Dan Hamilton and owner Steve Leburg stand ready to help customers at Chautauqua Restaurant Supply on Eighth Street in Jamestown, which will close its doors this fall. P-J photos by Jay Young

After serving the businesses and organizations of Western New York for more than 30 years, Chautauqua Restaurant Supply is preparing to close its doors next month.

Owner Steve Leburg first opened those doors to the chefs, restaurant owners and public in the spring of 1989.

Ever since, the business has provided the essentials of foodservice to clients located throughout the Southern Tier.

Originally a teacher in Jamestown, Leburg entered the packing supply business during the 1980s following the passing of his father.

“I was teaching,” Leburg said. “Then it became industrial packing materials, which went everywhere from steel strappings and tools to tape dispensers. All kinds of packaging products.”

Leburg was connected with another businessman based in Olean, with whom he had discussed entering the restaurant supply business as well.

“We had talked about purchasing a location down in Olean which was for restaurant supplies–paper products and everything. The more we talked about it the more we said, ‘Why do that when we both have businesses going?'”

Rather than open a new location, Leburg simply made the transition to restaurant supplies in Jamestown.

Starting with standards of the foodservice business, Chautauqua Restaurant Supply grew its offerings from there.

“Started with glassware, paper towels,” Leburg said. “Products like that that were consumable. You didn’t have to really think too hard about what people needed. Then more and more people would lead me to where I needed to go. It was more customer-oriented, what started to go in (stock) here. You get a feel for–people need this, maybe we should stock it. That is how it kind of grew to what it is.”

Today the store, located at 507 West Eighth St., offers a complete range of kitchen and bar products and culinary equipment. Kitchen and foodservice items span the shelves, in addition to serving and packaging containers, bar essentials, cleaning supplies and dishware.

In addition to serving nearly every restaurant in the area since 1989, Leburg and longtime manager Dan Hamilton have also worked closely with churches, fire halls, and other organizations that serve food in large quantities.

“It is the whole spectrum, we are open to the public as well,” Leburg said. “We do have a fairly decent radius that we deal with, not as much right now. We are down in Warren, Pa., Fredonia, Dunkirk, Westfield, Mayville. We even have an account or two down in the Salamanca area. But a lot of that is starting to slow down, there are some places that are closing. I don’t know what is going to happen to some of them.”

Much remains to be seen about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on restaurants, although business has remained steady for some essential products over the last several months.

“Chemicals obviously got big, sanitizing type stuff,” Leburg said.

Restaurants that were able to stay open with takeout service have still needed everyday carryout items and other in order to stay up-and-running.

“The business is really kind of healthy right now, even with what is going on. The overhead came down as well as the gross sales, so it kind of all stayed the same and made it manageable,” Leburg said.

Leburg and Hamilton are looking forward to enjoying their retirement, and will be able to look back fondly on all of the ebb and flow that local restaurants have been through in 30 years of time.

“I go back through old paperwork and old notebooks. I see names of old bars or restaurants and I say ‘Wow, I forgot about that place,’ you know?” Leburg said. “It has been our privilege and great pleasure to provide supplies and build friendships with all our valued customers. We sincerely wish to thank all of you for all your support through the years.”

By the second week of September, Leburg expects to stop ordering new products, but no specific closing date has been determined.

Customers can visit the store from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday in order to take advantage of some discounts on in-stock items before closing this fall.

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