This is a story about opportunity, stepping up to challenges and persevering in the face of adversity. The year was 1972. Al Barbagallo and his brothers had been picking vegetables and tomatoes on his father’s farm for several summers, even into their adult years.
The farm located on acreage bordering East Molloy Road in East Syracuse had been his family’s principal source of income for many years. Now Al Barbagallo presented his father with an idea as he said, “Dad, did you ever think that God intended for something other than a farm on this land?" Barbagallo relates that his dad said, "what do you have in mind?" After talking for a couple of minutes of how he thought a bar would be a great business, his father turned to his two brothers and asked them what they thought, and they said in unison, "sounds good to us." Barbagallo says his dad turned to him and said, "okay, let's build a bar."
So, the beginning of the Barbagallo prominence on the east end of Molloy Road began with Barbagallo’s Tavern. A self-described shot and beer bar, serving a local factory clientele from Carrier to General Motors, the tavern also served some food. Before long, a more full-service food destination was needed and in 1980 construction was undertaken on an addition to the tavern totaling 5,000 square feet, to serve the restaurant for lunch and dinner and as an expanded banquet facility. A few years later opportunity presented itself in the form of increased banquet demand resulting from the quality of food, service and the facility. In 1990 a 10,000 square foot addition made Barbagallo’s one of the premier banquets and party venues in Central New York.
Sustained by business from the surrounding industry workforce Barbagallo’s thrived until the early 2000’s when major companies began leaving the Syracuse area. These major local employers had been the greatest customer base for the restaurant and banquet facility. Barbagallo credits the hard work and diligence of his family including his brothers Pete and the late Angelo and his sister Antoinette for success through the years.
Again, in the early 2000’s another challenge was met head on. In 2001 Al Barbagallo purchased an adjacent piece of land and constructed a convenience store offering gas, diesel and a deli. This was the last remaining piece of his parent’s farmland. Located on a very busy thoroughfare the convenience store quickly became profitable. After almost 15 years of successful operation the convenience store was acquired by Express Mart. This attractive transaction presented another opportunity for Barbagallo. It provided the capital to begin the completion of his vision for the property by adding a 54 room Sleep Inn Hotel in 2015.
The hotel was attached directly to the restaurant/banquet spaces. This new facility provided a new source of revenue and added greatly to the attractiveness of the event venue. By this time the Barbagallo sons Matthew and Daniel were fully involved in the business and were providing capable management talent for the restaurant and hotel. This allowed Al Barbagallo to continue his pursuit of his vision of a one-stop corner on East Molloy Road.
In search of revenue sources in early 2021 in the face of Covid-19 downturn in the hospitality industry Barbagallo considered repurposing part of the event venue into a wine and spirits store. He contacted the Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College for assistance with preparation for financing this latest project. Having many banking relationships over the years now represented a strategic decision on the direction to proceed.
Paul Brooks, NYS Certified SBDC Advisor assisted with the business plan and financial projections that the bankers were very interested in reviewing. Meanwhile, Barbagallo successfully navigated the retail liquor licensing waters. Paul Brooks said, “Al Barbagallo is a determined, insightful businessman. I knew when we started working together that this was going to be a successful project.” Early in the Spring of 2021 Barbagallo’s Discount Liquor opened fulfilling the vision of the one-stop corner. Al Barbagallo puts it this way: “We are where we are today by the Graces of God! I have been an instrument of God my whole life, and He is the person who deserves all the praise for our accomplishments.”
A successful family business from humble, spiritual origins has now existed on East Molloy Road for almost 50 years despite many obstacles and challenges; proving once again that ingenuity, determination and common sense are critical factors in today’s business environment.
Visit Barbagallo's Website: www.barbagallos.com
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Article published in the CNY Business Journal on February 18, 2022.
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