The new Bombers in Troy opens this Wednesday. The opening is notable not only because it's an extension of Matt Baumgartner and company's popular local burrito bar brand, but also because it's the chain's first franchise location.
Monday night there was a preview party, so we stopped by to get a look at the new place, and talk with Matt and the owners of the Troy location for a few minutes.
"I had an epiphany in '08, and thought that Troy needed a Bombers," said owner Tami Dzembo, standing alongside her husband Damon outside the new location as a happy, loud crowd celebrated with drinks and food inside. "I love Bombers. ... and I just thought Troy would be a wonderful place. I'm a believer in Troy. I think Troy is on the upswing."
Added Damon: "As soon as Matt offered the opportunity to franchise, it was almost a no-brainer."
Matt Baumgartner and his business partners have a string of successful restaurants and bars in the area -- Bombers, Wolff's, the Olde English, Sciortino's -- so why hand things off to someone else in a franchise?
"For a while people said 'You should open up in other cities' -- like Syracuse," Baumgartner explained Monday evening while sitting on one of the benches in a large street-level window at the front of the restaurant. "But I knew I wouldn't be able to do all the travel."
Of course, Troy isn't that far -- but: "Tami had approached us really early on." And Matt said he had a good feeling about the Dzembos, that they'd be the right type of people to be able to handle the stress of running a restaurant. "I'm proud of the location, but I'm really proud of the relationship with the owners."
It took a long time to get to this point. Working out the details and paperwork involved in setting up a franchise took time. And the building needed significant work (at one point last year it had a large hole in the back wall) -- which Damon, a general contractor, described with a laugh as "a great construction learning process."
But both parties stuck with it. That made an impression on the Dzembos.
"[Matt] had multiple opportunities to cancel the deal," Damon said, touching on the time it took them to gather up the money to invest in the venture. "He should have kicked us to curb a long time ago, but he didn't because he promised her Troy."
"On a hand shake," added Tami.
The building is at the end of what has been a rundown strip on King Street at Federal Street. As you drive over the Green Island Bridge, it's right there. You can't miss it.
"We have the best piece of real estate in the city of Troy," Tami exclaimed.
Inside and out it's un-mistakably a Bombers. If you've ever been to the chain's Albany or Schenectady locations, you'll recognize the style right away: the neon sign outside, the red and blue color scheme, the booths, the pinup girl art. It's a fun space.
Whatever skills are in Baumgartner's portfolio as a business person, we've thought for a while now that his biggest talent is his ability to design and execute spaces and experiences that draw people in. And looking at things that way, franchising makes a lot of sense -- it allows him to apply his eye for design and atmosphere to a larger scale. (And as he told us a few years back, "the set up of a restaurant is my favorite part.")
Talking Monday night, Matt said they're currently fielding interest from people in Oneonta and New Paltz about new franchises. Their ideal spots: towns with large college populations, foot traffic, and mixed-use residential. "Smaller, cool" cities, as he described them.
Which sounds a lot like Troy.
The Dzembos had a lot of praise for the experience of working with the city on their project.
"At all levels of the government, from the mayor down to code enforcement to the the guy in street turning on water valves, everybody's been great to work with," Damon said.
They're hoping the opening of their Bombers will spur further development along that King Street strip -- sections of which have been vacant for years, and frankly, the whole stretch has looked rather sad. The Dzembos say they've heard rumors of plans for a new sports bar, or maybe a coffee shop, or a laundromat.
As Tami notes of real estate listings for the spaces, "They all advertise 'next to Bombers.'"
King Street and Federal Street
Troy, NY 12180
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