This past New Year’s Eve, David Spory and partner, Carrie Bronzene, celebrated their first day as owners of local pub, The Grateful Den.
A Glens Falls native, David had grown up within two blocks of the bar and restaurant, and was a frequent patron. He worked as a safety manager in construction projects, but had thoughts in the back of his mind of one day operating his own business.
“When opportunity comes knocking,” said David, “sometimes you just have to jump at it.”
In 2019, David learned that Jeremy Carner was selling the restaurant, which he had named after iconic Glens Falls restaurant, “The Den,” and his love for The Grateful Dead. Jeremy also owns a food services company that caters to local nonprofit Double H Ranch, and was previous owner of The Longhorn Restaurant & Pub in Lake Luzerne.
Eager to spend more time with family, Jeremy found his successor in David. David’s appreciation for live music, good food and craft beer, plus his love of the neighborhood, proved good starting points for his entrepreneurial journey. Carrie had also worked more than twenty years in the restaurant industry, proving to be a valuable asset in the couple’s endeavor.
While 2020 has certainly evolved differently than what David and Carrie could have ever imagined, an unpredictable first year in business has still turned out to be a positive one.
An Unexpected First Year
At the start of 2020, David had left his construction job recognizing his full attention needed to be with The Grateful Den. Likewise, Carrie worked at a bank, but decided to leave the opportunity to fully focus on restaurant ownership.
In March, the couple was prepared for a huge crowd for Saint Patrick’s Day when news of COVID-19 hit.
“My reaction was ‘What did I do?’,” said David. “Suddenly all of my projections for the upcoming year were out the window.”
The Grateful Den was closed for a week as David and Carrie planned their next steps. They stayed hopeful, seeing social media posts and Facebook groups that rallied behind supporting local restaurants. When they reopened for takeout and delivery mid-March, they had reason to stay optimistic. Their loyal customers stayed supportive. The emphasis on takeout also brought in many new families who learned of The Grateful Den through positive online reviews, or word-of-mouth advertising.
“We’re family friendly,” said Carrie, who shared that before and after restaurant shutdowns, their children’s menu has been frequently requested. “Any entertainment we’ve chosen is appropriate for all ages, and there are plenty of families that come to our Sunday brunches.”
She added, “It was uplifting to learn from customers that they prioritized ordering takeout from local restaurants. Being able to offer adult beverages for takeout helped too.”
Food for Every Mood, Plus Bottomless Mimosa Brunch
The Grateful Den is popular with locals for their selection of beverages, plus their eclectic selection of pub food.
There is a rotating selection of twelve craft beers on tap, plus ample supply of canned artisanal beers and ciders. The restaurant maintains a rotating selection of wines, and also has a following with their specialty cocktail menus (think “Dirty Shirley– a vodka infused Shirley Temple, or “Peanut Butter Cup” featuring screwball whiskey and Godiva chocolate liquor). Seasonal cocktails (Pumpkin Spice White Russian, Caramel Apple, and more) are also popular.
Their variety of chicken wings (like mexi-Cali blues, Korean BBQ, and mango habanero, among other flavors) are especially popular. Their Den Philly sandwich (shaved certified angus beef, loaded with fresh peppers, onion, mushrooms and the Grateful Den’s beer cheese) is also a top selection.
On Sunday afternoons (noon-4) customers enjoy “chicken and waffle” brunches that include bottomless mimosas for $22/person.
“The brunch is popular,” said David. “There are people from the south who grew up on chicken and waffles and love experiencing it at the Den.”
Behind the Music
There are other aspects of the “Denhead” experience that keep patrons returning.
Created with The Grateful Dead in mind, a big part of the restaurant’s appeal is live music performances. Carrie shared that while she and David are Grateful Dead fans, they try to bring in all types of music, from today’s radio hits to country.
As of November 1, COVID-19 restrictions under New York state guidelines include that only incidental music is permissible. This means that musical acts can not be advertised, and should not be the draw for restaurant patrons. The Grateful Den currently does not share their calendar of performers, but live music does still accompany dining experiences. The restaurant also hosts Thursday trivia nights.
“Many of our musician friends can not find gigs right now, and we hire them,” said Carrie. “No matter what is hosted here, there is only a limited amount of seats we can fill.” David added that there have been evenings they’ve had to turn customers away due to 50% capacity regulations, but it’s a sacrifice they understand to keep crowds at a minimum.
“There are days when the rapid changes feel never-ending,” said Carrie, “But we’re still thankful.”
An Appreciative Den
“Our neighborhood in Glens Falls, the ‘south side’– they’re very loyal to us,” said David. “They want a local restaurant here.”
In addition to thanking local patrons for standing by them during the pandemic, David and Carrie also credit the local workforce, such as staff of Glens Falls Hospital and Parks Heritage Federal Credit Union, for patronizing.
And if online reviews are any indication, customers will keep coming to the Den.
Here is a recent sample:
“Ordered takeout from the Den for our anniversary. Absolutely, positively wonderful. More than just “pub food.” Try the prime rib burger and the s’mores lava cake for dessert!”
“Great atmosphere. Chill music. Friendly staff. Amazing food. Recommend the Gouda Mac & Cheese Bites!”
“Great neighborhood bar run by friendly and welcoming owners, Dave and Carrie. Skip the national chain taverns and go local!”
The Grateful Den is open from 3:00 p.m. through the evenings Tuesday-Saturday. On Sunday, the Den is open from noon to 7 p.m. The community is invited to follow the restaurant on Facebook for regular updates.
Special thanks to The Julie Snyder Team, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, for supporting this story.
Says a member of The Julie Snyder Team: “The Grateful Den always has a great selection of craft beers and the food is excellent. It’s always a pleasure to support local small business owners who contribute to the vibrancy of living in the Glens Falls community.”