By David Lindeman
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — Smiths’ Boathouse is more than a restaurant — it’s the fulfillment of a dream.
Troy’s newest restaurant is located in the historic boathouse at Treasure Island Park, 439 N. Elm St.
The restaurant held its grand opening on Nov. 1, but the story actually starts almost 50 years before when Ron and Donna Smith and their four boys moved to Troy.
Smith came to Troy to work for Hobart Corp., but his dream was to own a restaurant. His ultimate dream was owning that restaurant in Hawaii when he retired from Hobart. Smith was a partner in the Brewery Restaurant in the early 1970s and all four of his sons were introduced to the restaurant business when they worked there. Ron Smith never got to see his ultimate dream come true — he died from cancer at the age of 55 in 1988.
His family wouldn’t let the dream die, though. Donna and sons Gary, Ron Jr. and Rick opened the Waterfront Restaurant in Maui in 1989 while Larry remained in Troy to manage his company, Greentech. The restaurant was a Maui landmark for 23 years before closing in 2012.
But Ron Sr.’s dream was still alive, and it has resurfaced at the Boathouse.
Larry and Ron Jr. saw the Boathouse as the perfect place to bring the Smiths back into the restaurant business.
“My brother Ron had moved back to Troy and kept calling me with ideas,” Larry said. A friend talked the Smith brothers into touring the building in March of this year and they immediately saw the possibilities. They signed a lease with the city and the work began.
“I was elated, excited, it was a dream come true,” Larry said. “I thought this is going to be awesome, everything is going to be perfect. Then reality set in. This is far more complicated than I had anticipated.
“You sit down at the table and get your drink and your food and you’re happy. It’s mind-boggling what you have to do to make that happen.”
The brothers have had plenty of help. Gary and Rick provided advice and hands-on assistance. Family members and friends did the work to get the building ready. And the city also played an important role.
“The support from the city and the county has really been fantastic,” Larry said. “The building is a landmark with the Hobart name. They’re rooting for us.”
Ron Jr. is a graduate of the Culinary School of America in Hyde Park, N.Y and is thrilled to be back in the kitchen after many years working in restaurants such as Nicolai’s Roof in Atlanta and at the Waterfront.
“I already believed in miracles,” he said, “but I didn’t expect this one. With the people we have, this has the potential to be a really great restaurant.”
Damian Bumgarner and Ron Jr. serve as executive chefs. Emily Goodin is restaurant manager. Phil Smith is general manager.
The menu features seafood and steaks and includes prime rib every night. It also features some of the recipes that made the Waterfront such a success, including a Caesar salad freshly prepared at tableside.
The restaurant also provides rooms for special events such as wedding receptions, business meetings and large parties and already is booking holiday events.
The waterfront setting is a perfect fit for the family. The Hobart family built Treasure Island and the Boathouse as part of the post-war expansion of recreational facilities along the Miami River. The Boathouse opened in 1946 as a marina. The renovated Boathouse offers grand views of the river, including seating on the patio overlooking the water.
“I guess you could say boats are in our blood,” Larry said. “We were born within two blocks of the Cleveland Yacht Club. I’ve spent probably half my life on boats and my dad did, too, and our family has a cottage on Lake Erie.”
One very special part of Ron Sr.’s dream can be found at the Boathouse. It’s a picture of him, signed by his former workers at Hobart, that hung above the bar at the Waterfront for 23 years. It made the trip back from Hawaii and now hangs across from the bar at the Boathouse.
Donna Smith, who was back in Troy from her home in Hawaii for the Boathouse’s grand opening, believes she knows what her husband would say if he could be around to see the next step of his dream come true.
“He’d say, ‘Go for it,’” Donna said.
The Smith family has done just that. Second, third and even fourth generation members of the Smith family are working at the restaurant to keep the dream alive.
Smiths’ Boathouse is open Monday through Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. with plans for a Sunday brunch in the near future. Reservations are encouraged and can be obtained by calling 335-3837.
Reach David Lindeman, a former editor of the Troy Daily News, at [email protected]