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Thousand Islands Inn to open taco stand; hotel expected to open next spring

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CLAYTON — Though the doors of the Thousand Island Inn have remained shut while the expected spring opening came and went, the owners have decided to make lemonade out of lemons and open a taco stand to feed Clayton while construction continues.

“We had hoped to be open by this time,” said part-owner Bradford J. Minnick. “We knew there would be challenges with an older building going into it but we needed to make a lot of unexpected repairs.”

Mr. Minnick and Jaime Weinber, his partner and co-owner of the three-level inn, purchased the property on Dec. 31.

Mr. Minnick said he had hoped to open by June but unexpected construction and associated costs have prevented the partners from opening the hotel. However, Mr. Minnick said the building’s kitchen is in perfect working order.

“With the help of our chef we’re going to open a taco take-out window,” Mr. Minnick said. “There are a lot of people in Clayton this summer and we’ll be able to offer them something a little different.”

The taco take-out window will be on the Merrick Street side of the building. Mr. Minnick said patrons will be able to select from 10 to 12 menu items ranging in price from $4 to $8.

Mr. Minnick said the chef, Gabriel Aubertine, has created an assortment of gourmet tacos using a variety of ingredients from duck confit to cod.

The tacos will include “The Big Hungry” — a herb-encrusted pork tenderloin offering with sweet potato fries, shaved brussels sprouts, bacon jam, creme fraiche, and bacon sprinkles.

Another is the “Poultry Pouch,” a grilled-chicken taco with cilantro-lime brown rice, black beans, sauteed peppers and onions, pepper jack cheese and avocado ranch dressing.

“We hope to open by mid- July; we are just waiting for health inspection and inspection from a mechanical engineer,” Mr. Minnick said.

Town Supervisor Justin A. Taylor said even though the hotel isn’t opening this summer, it will start serving as an admirable addition to downtown Clayton.

“I think any opportunity to bring new food to folks in Clayton is great,” Mr. Taylor said. “We have Italian, a few pizza places, but we don’t have any taco places.”

Mr. Minnick said though the owners could have been discouraged to have the doors still closed in July, they decided to have fun with the project. On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Minnick and Mr. Weinber opened a lemonade stand in front of the hotel.

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” Mr. Minnick said.

Over the last seven months, the effort to transform the more-than-100-year-old inn into their vision of a charming piano-bar inn has hit a few snags, he said.

“Everyone told us when we told them we were restoring a historic building it would take twice as long and twice as much money to fix,” Mr. Minnick said. “We were just hoping to prove everyone wrong, but it’s been overwhelming.”

Since they started renovations, the partners removed all of the aged wall-to-wall carpet in the hotel, removed drop ceilings in the bedrooms and, while taking down a wall in the piano bar area, noticed the wall wasn’t properly reinforced. From there a lot of time went to reinforcing the floors and walls. As renovations continued, the need for additional work to the building’s plumbing and wiring became apparent.

Mr. Minnick said the project has been followed closely by members of the community — people stopping by the site or checking out the project’s Facebook page.

“We’re excited everyone is excited for us to do this,” Mr. Minnick said. “This is a historic building and one of the last unrestored historic relics in downtown Clayton.”

Mr. Minnick said the partners now plan to update the restaurant, the bar and the 13 hotel rooms by next spring.

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