Local businesses help Syracuse landmark get back on the map

Published Aug 4, 2016 at 4:00pm

Two local companies are playing roles in the reopening of a Syracuse landmark.

Sherrill Manufacturing produced all of the knives, forks, spoons and other eating utensils that will be used by the guests at the revitalized Hotel Syracuse.

Harden Furniture in McConnellsville restored chairs, desks, tables and other furniture items, including a large wine cooler from the 1920s, that are located throughout the hotel that’s being rebranded as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown. The firm also provided new pieces for the outfitting of the property that will have 261 guest rooms, multiple dining venues, and more than 41,000 square feet of meeting, wedding and event space 

Elegant flatware from Sherrill

The hotel’s eateries will feature the Betsy Ross pattern — the company’s most popular line — from the Liberty Tabletop line produced at Sherrill Manufacturing.

A total of 21,840 pieces of flatware were made for the hotel, according to co-owner and CEO Gregory Owens. The Liberty Tabletop name was consciously selected to emphasize the brand’s “made in the U.S.A.” appeal. Sherrill Manufacturing is the only remaining domestic flatware maker.

“That’s a very large order for us,” said Owens. “In fact , it is our first hotel opening.”

The company made 12 different pieces for the hotel — from teaspoons to soup spoons, salad forks to dinner forks, dinner knives to steak knives, and more.

The Liberty Tabletop website describes the Betsy Ross line as having an elegant “teardrop shape and sleek design,” a mirror-finish, and a heavy weight that “provides elegant balance and feel.” 

“I think they’re very happy with it,” said Owens.

“The pattern embodies the nature of the renovation. The sleek lines and slope lend a modern twist to a classic style,” said Chuck Anthony, director of food and beverage for the hotel. The first of the restaurants to open will be Eleven Waters, the main dining venue.

Sherrill Manufacturing uses part of the former Oneida Ltd. flatware factory in Sherrill.

The company was established after Owens and Matthew Roberts, both former Oneida Ltd. employees, bought the Sherrill plant in 2005 when Oneida Ltd. halted its longtime flatware production.

The Liberty Tabletop brand was introduced several years later. The U.S. military is the company’s largest customer.

Committed developer

Hotel developer Ed Riley bought the Syracuse building in 2014 and is completing a $70 million renovation. The hotel opened on South Warren Street in downtown Syracuse in 1924 and was well known among Central New York hotels for many decades until it went bankrupt and closed in 2004.

“Ed (Riley) and the rest of his crew were really committed to local sourcing,” said Owens. The company executive looks forward to an ongoing relationship with Riley and the hotel.

The Sherrill company anticipates making forks, spoons and other utensils to replace ones that go astray or are taken by guests as keepsakes. The CEO figures anywhere from 8 to 10 percent of the pieces will be replaced annually.

Treasure uncovered

Among the treasures discovered at the former Hotel Syracuse as workers brought new life to it was an unidentified mound of wood panels and doors found in a pile of rubble. It turned out to be an original wine cabinet for the former hotel from the early 1920s. Now, fully restored by Harden, the piece is returning to the soon-to-be Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

Help from Harden

“We asked the team at Harden Furniture to take a look and see if they could figure out what it was,” said hotel owner Riley. “It took them about three hours to reassemble the pieces and identify it as a wine cabinet.”

“There were no photos and no instructions,” said Andrew Clark, vice president of operations at Harden. “We were lucky that it was built as a modular piece, which was made to come apart and be put back together.”

The wine cabinet was originally built by McArthur, Wirth & Cooney, a Syracuse-based supplier of tools and machinery. The company’s logo remains intact on the wine cabinet.

Once reassembled, the cabinet stood more than 12 feet tall and included a section at the very top that was insulated to hold ice. Ice was kept at the top of the cabinet in order to keep the wine below it cool — there was no mechanical refrigeration system when the unit was built.

The cabinet has been restored in two pieces: the main wine cabinet, which stands about 8 to 9 feet tall and will store approximately 100 bottles of Finger Lakes wines; and the former ice compartment, which will not be used for ice storage and instead will serve as a credenza next to the wine cabinet. In order to best preserve the piece, refrigeration will not be added. The cabinet retains the original oak and cedar woods, as well as quarter-inch glass that helped to keep moisture away from the wood.

“We brought it all back to life,” said Arlene Hall, Harden’s director of marketing. “It was so cool that we were able to bring that back.”

Tradition spans generations

The Harden family settled in New York state to work on the construction of the Erie Canal and began making furniture as a small business in 1844. The company continues to produce upper-end, solid wood case good and upholstery pieces for both residential and commercial markets. Gregory Harden, president and fifth-generation CEO, has a personal connection to the hotel project.

“My grandmother would take me there when I was a child once a year at Christmas,” he said. “This hotel is part of so many memories for me, and for our community. It means so much to me and to our team to be a part of this project.”

He added, “We do a lot of restoration work, in fact we’re one of the last shops in the country who can do this kind of restoration work, but this is one of the most significant pieces we’ve done as far as historical context is concerned.”

Harden Furniture has now restored several hundred pieces for the hotel.

“It’s been important throughout this project that we engage as many local companies as possible,” said Riley. “Harden Furniture has done a fantastic job and we’re all excited to bring this piece (the wine cabinet) back to the hotel.”

The hotel is currently hosting groups and events and hopes to make the transition to full service operations later this month.

“From the start, this renovation has been an expression of community,” said Joe Blewitt, regional director of operations for hotel management group Crescent Hotels & Resorts. “To incorporate so many local companies and products speaks volumes about the resources available in Central New York and Mr. Riley’s commitment to the region’s economy.”