Ponderosa Calcutta Site to Be Redeveloped

CALCUTTA, Ohio — The building that housed a long-time St. Clair Township restaurant that fell victim to the COVID pandemic will be demolished, with plans in the works to re-develop the site.

The Ponderosa Steakhouse, 16300 Dresden Ave., opened Sept. 8, 1986, and served the public until closing on what was thought to be a temporary basis March 29, 2020, due to the pandemic. However, on July 2, 2021, employees were advised the business would not be reopening, according to Tyra Reed, a manager who had worked at the restaurant since its opening.  

Employees gathered one last time early in May for a photo opportunity underneath the Ponderosa sign, which still touted the “temporary” closing, and they spoke not only of the loyal customers they had served but of the family atmosphere the business fostered among its workers.

“There were so many couples who came out of here, best friends made, and so many families worked here,” Reed said, adding that between 14 and 15 members of her own family worked at Ponderosa over the years.

The loyalty to the business is evidenced by comments posted on a recently created Facebook group, Calcutta Ponderosa Family. Three of the posts read:

Former Ponderosa Steakhouse employees gathered recently for one last photo under the business sign.

“It’s like someone is taking our home away from us.” “That’s heartbreaking to me…wish I was able to see it one more time. I don’t think I can ever imagine anything else in that spot.” “My best first job ever.”

In April, the Armstrong Group, which owns the property, announced an online auction of all fixtures and furniture, and quickly followed by encircling the building with a construction fence. This served as a catalyst for community speculation about what, if anything, would replace the popular steakhouse.

Retired manager Michael Stenger, who also started work at the restaurant when it first opened, had refuted rumors during the photo session. “There is absolutely nothing to the rumors of Chipotle or Chick-fil-A going in. They are going to tear down the building and lease the property,” he said.

Contacted Thursday, Michael Wilson, a real estate manager for Armstrong, said, “We are actually in conversation with various retailers to re-develop the site.”

A proposed site plan for the Ponderosa Steakhouse location in Calcutta indicates the the possibility of two separate businesses being built on the Dresden Avenue property.

Citing confidentiality, Wilson could not disclose exactly what retailers are being courted but said the most likely scenario is demolishing the structure and redeveloping the property with two smaller retailers. 

“It was a very large restaurant and there are not too many that size now,” Wilson said. “So it’s more likely there will be two buildings. It could end up being one, but that’s not as likely.”

A proposed site plan for the property is displayed on the Armstrong Development website showing two unnamed side-by-side businesses, one encompassing 2,315 square feet and the other 2,325 square feet, both with drive-thrus, menu boards and mobile order pickup spaces in their parking lots. 

Wilson said he expects “something within the next year” will be developed on the property.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.