SYRACUSE — When Matt Gould moved back to his hometown of Syracuse several years ago, the one thing he missed about living in bigger cities was having a pub to go to on the weekends.
So, he decided to build his own.
"After about three or four years of wishing I had a place, I finally made the decision that if I was going to have the place, I would just have to do it. So, now that we have this pub here, I don't miss anything about the city," he said, sitting on one of the black couches inside the newly opened Black Bison Pub on Main Street in Syracuse. "I get the small town to raise my kids, which is much better than raising kids in the city. And I like knowing everybody that comes in here. It's all people you know. With the exception that we are getting a lot of people from surrounding areas, which is nice — definitely a lot of regulars we are starting to see."
Gould has been working on the blue building, originally built in the 1880s, since April 2010. His first project was to renovate the upstairs into a lodge that he could rent to hunters he booked through his outfitting business. He previously had been renting houses in the area before he invested in the property.
"It occurred to me that I could buy my own place and save money," he said. "I bought it with that in mind — for the upper floor — and I knew at some point down the road the pub concept would be perfect for this main level, and the pool hall in the basement was kind of an afterthought. After we finished the loft, that first New Year's Eve we had a party up there, and the kids were destroying everything, and I ran around all night chasing them ... and that night, I decided to turn the basement into a place for the kids."
The lodge, which opened two years ago, was the first part of the business to be completed. A year later, the downstairs pool hall was completed, and on March 4, the pub finally opened its doors.
"This is kind of the last piece of the puzzle," he said, gesturing around the room, which features a collection of Gould's photography.
"It adds a lot of fun ambience to the town," Tino Chavez said, while sitting at the bar eating chicken strips.
Chavez, one of the Black Bison Pub's cooks, moved from Denver to Syracuse two years ago.
"Before, I had nothing to do here. I just thought this place was hell because it was so boring. Coming from a big city, this place is really boring. But now that I'm here, and I've met new people, and I've made new friends, this place is just an awesome place to get a good beer, which is also what I think is awesome about this place — the beer is just phenomenal. This place is just what this town really needed in my opinion."
In the Kitchen, Cheryl Gerard, the restaurant's head chef, is listening to the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival on her iPhone while she cuts tomatoes in preparation for the evening's dinner crowd.
"I love it. It's the best job ever," she said. "He (Matt) lets me be creative, that's the best part. Matt made the menu, but we worked some stuff out together, and he just lets me do my own thing. It's kind of nice. I've always wanted my own restaurant, but I never wanted the hassle that went with it — the paperwork."
Gerard says that her family members already have been frequent visitors at the new business.
"There's nothing like this around here at all. I can't think of one place that is like Matt's pub that has this atmosphere. It's family orientated, and I think that helps. That brings everybody in. We've had the elderly, even the kids will come in after school by themselves. I think that's neat. You know, thinking that alcohol is here, it doesn't bother the parents. We're being very grown up about it, I think. You know, mature. It's a family place that anybody can come to."
Gould reaffirmed the importance of keeping the Black Bison Pub a family place.
"I'm not looking for hard drinkers cuz those types of people always cause trouble," he said. "That's one of the reasons we close at 10 during the week because you typically see trouble the last few hours you are open, and this place is modeled after an Irish pub or an English pub. They all close at 10 at night, and there's kids in there until the place closes down and people go home."
Gould keeps regional businesses involved in his restaurant by buying their products.
"We feature as much local and regional products as we can. So the bison meat obviously is raised in Hamilton County," he said, referencing his dad's herd, where he sources his meat. "And the black angus that we serve is raised by my neighbor, also in this county. I like the idea of supporting people that you know, people that you work with. You know, small communities are typically tough places to make a living anyway, and so the more local people we can support the better it is for everybody anyway. That's kind of the concept behind that."
In addition to the local meat products, Gould carries a variety of Kansas and Colorado beers, wine from Somerset Winery in Somerset, champagne from a winery in Hermann, Mo., and liquor from Dark Horse distillery in Lenexa.
"There's a lot of great things coming out of Kansas, and we don't have to go very far to get good products," Eddy said as he gestured toward the selection of Kansas beverages behind the bar.
The Black Bison Pub's future looks promising, and Gould hopes it will be a place the community can continue to enjoy.
"Originally I wanted to build a pub so I would have a cool place to drink with my brothers because I have five brothers," he said. "Then I thought the rest will fall into place because I will have a place to drink with my brothers. But my kids love coming down here after school, and we make pizza-sized chocolate chip cookies, and they always want to have a cookie or the bartenders make them their own signature (non alcoholic) kiddie drink, and they love that."
The Black Bison Pub, 112 N. Main St. in Syracuse, is open 11 a.m. to noon Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.