OLEAN — Ponderosa Steakhouse closed its doors Monday with almost no notice to staff members, according to multiple reports.
A sign posted Tuesday to the locked glass doors of the West State Street buffet read, “Thank you for a great 22 years of dining with us, we greatly appreciate it but now we must say goodbye.”
Olean’s Ponderosa is managed by Indus Hospitality Group Inc., with corporate headquarters in Pittsford. Martin Woodarek, senior vice president for Indus Hospitality Group and Ponderosa district manager, did not return requests for comment.
The Western-style steak house brand has existed in Olean since at least August of 1977, when it was one of 45 businesses opening at the brand new Olean Center Mall.
On Facebook, Tiffany Worthington, of Cuba, who listed herself as an employee at Ponderosa, wrote she was shocked by “such short notice” workers had received about the restaurant’s closing, though she did not give specifics.
Chuck Wiser, a Scio resident, publicly posted on Facebook that he was at the Olean restaurant on its last day. His description of events matched an anonymous tip the Olean Times Herald received Monday night.
“Stopped in today for lunch and asked what all the hugging and tears were for,” he wrote Monday around 4 p.m. “It seems that they had just been advised, just minutes before our arrival, that they were closing and that today at closing time they were all done. So sad!”
Wiser added in a comment that he left a generous tip and shook the manager’s hand before leaving.
“Actually I don't think the Manager nor rest of staff knew it when we first got there and paid. There was another shirt and tie guy that was talking to the manager and staff while we dined,” Wiser wrote, adding after staff discussion there were “teary eyes.”
Kim Woods, of Olean, posted on Facebook publicly that Monday marked the end of her roughly 18-year stint with the restaurant. She stated she felt lucky to have been a part of “a great work family.”
“We have had some great memories there,” she wrote. “We seen each other succeed, fail, and overcome lives (sic) obstacles. We have watched each other’s children grow and we all became a family.”
In a conversation Tuesday with the Times Herald, Woods declined to comment on the events of Monday, but said former Ponderosa employees have been on social media trying to support each other.
“Regardless of the job or not, we will all stay connected,” she said.
She also thanked the restaurant’s general manager, Mike Jaeger, for his leadership.
Worthington’s public post echoed Woods’ sentiments.
“I am happy to have known and to have worked with everyone,” she wrote. “Especially our general manager Mike Jaeger. He is by far the best boss I have ever worked for.”
Indus Hospitality Group’s website states Jaeger, of Olean, has been with the corporation since 1993. A request for comment from Jaeger was not returned by press time.
Indus was founded in 1988 and operates dozens of hotels and restaurants — including Microtels near St. Bonaventure University and in Wellsville — in the Rochester, Finger Lakes and Western New York regions. As of 2007, Indus owned 18 Ponderosa restaurants in New York.
County property records show Ponderosa’s location at 2727 W. State St. is owned by Indus Real Estate II LLC, an active domestic limited liability company that New York’s Department of State records show share an address with Indus Hospitality Group.
(Contact City Editor Danielle Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHGamble)