BY Molly Congdon
HALFMOON — The white letters spelling SNYDER’S RESTAURANT pop against the red siding of the building, catching the eyes of many as they drive past on Route 9.
It’s the quintessential small-town diner, prompting memories of countless community hubs in television and movies over the decades.
Of course, it wasn’t always called Snyder’s — 55 years ago it was known as Mike’s Tavern. The counter was the bar and a shuffleboard was set up against the wall that now serves as the front entrance; there was no kitchen, it was just a tavern. Next, it was owned for many years by a couple named Snyder, who transformed it into a restaurant. Next, Herald Cropsey owned it for eight years, and then Bruce Tanski, the current owner, took the reins.
“I’ve been coming here every day since I was 18 years old; I’m 69, so do the math,” Tanski said. “Herald and I had a great relationship so I guess I was a logical choice.”
Over the last couple of years, he has made some remodeling renovations; spending approximately $210,000 on fresh siding, new booths and windows.
The yellow walls are speckled with old iron tools. “Those are things I’ve collected over the years and it’s a family restaurant and a lot of old-timers still come in here and recognize what they are,” Tanski said. “It’s an old building with modern flair.”
Snyders — open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily — does a tremendous breakfast and lunch business, each week going through 400 pounds of potatoes, 90 pounds of sausage and 300 dozen eggs. It isn’t uncommon for people to be lined up at the door waiting to get inside on the weekends, anxiously anticipating hot coffee, crispy bacon and scrambled eggs.
The customers are creatures of habit. Each day of the week is a designated special meal for lunch; Monday for example is goulash day. “A couple of months ago I tried to change the menu,” Tanski said. “The food we are serving comes from a 60-year-old menu; we changed the soup one day and I thought we were going to have a mass exodus.”
Executive waitress Tammy Selva will have worked at Snyder’s for 20 years when the calendar hits October.
“A group of guys come in the morning and they turn the lights and coffee pots on before I get here at 6 a.m.,” she said. “Then when they leave, they leave the money on the counter.”
“They’ve been doing that for 30 years,” Tanski said. “That’s the kind of place this is.”
According to Tanski, the success of Snyder’s is due to three important characteristics. “It’s longevity, consistency and location,” he said. “I think if somebody was to describe the one thing that really describes the restaurant it’s consistency. Like I said, we can’t even change the soup.”
Unlike the surrounding chain establishments in the busy Exit 9 area, everything is homemade. Tanski is a traditionalist; his favorite dish is a ham and cheese omelet.
Many business deals have been made within the establishment over coffee. “I’ve seen deals millions of dollars worth of deals come to fruition on napkins,” Tanski said. “This is the type of place where you can come in and you might be sitting next to an engineer, a police officer or a teacher; all walks of life come in here. It doesn’t matter whether you have a three-piece suit on or a painter’s clothes, everyone feels comfortable.”
“I’ve been approached to turn this place into a bank, a gas station, clothing store, doughnut shop and I’ve turned them all down,” said Tanski, who is also one of the most prolific real estate developers in Halfmoon.
For the foreseeable future, at least while he’s around, it will remain Snyder’s.