The Central Pulls Into Town

New train station restaurant is opening in stages


By Regina Clarkin

John Sharpe stifled a yawn as he sat at one of the tables in the new eatery at Peekskill’s train station on Wednesday afternoon. It was the opening day of The Central, his venture with partners Chappy Manzer and Lou Lanza. “I’ve been here since 4 a.m., washing the floors, because we haven’t hired a porter yet,” said the restaurateur.  The three entrepreneurs have transformed the long vacant train station into a bright, classy coffee shop and expect to have the restaurant portion of The Central open early next year, serving new American cuisine with a Mediterranean accent.   

Original train station benches have been given a refurbishing.              Photo by Ocean Morisset

The coffee shop portion of the building saw a steady stream of customers ordering coffee supplied by Peekskill Coffee House and checking out the menu that features house-baked scones, biscuits, quiches and danishes.  Other provisions include a vegetable press, Spanish Brie Press and the obligatory coffee shop mainstay: avocado toast and a schmear of cream cheese with lox on a bagel. 

Everything in the building, except the tile floor, has been refurbished and contributes to the spacious, airy feel – from the sanded down and polished original benches to the enormous light fixtures ”Not a square inch of the space hasn’t been renovated,” said Sharpe who joined the partnership a few months ago. He’s also an owner of Birdsall House on Main Street, Gleason’s on South Street, and the Factoria complex at Charles Point. 

In a new twist on a staple of train stations, Sharpe is anxiously awaiting the message board. He’s got the outlet on the wall ready and can’t wait to plug in the Vesta Board when it arrives. It’s a flip sign machine that is used as a message display system. Sharpe plans to update with train times and daily food specials.

Vesta Board will be on the wall right inside the door.                           Photo by Regina Clarkin

He’s also awaiting the marble table tops to match the main counter. They are on backorder, “probably sitting on a ship waiting to be unloaded” according to Sharpe, who said he was grateful that partner Lou Lanza had tables from the former Eagle Saloon available to use for the opening.  Besides the Vesta Board there are a few other touches that will be added, such as five-foot long oval mirrors between the windows and ornate stands for the marble tabletops that will contribute to the ambiance of a train station from bygone days. 

The trio settled on the name for the restaurant because of the connection to the location at the train station.  “Before Metro North and Conrail, the train line was called The Central,” said Sharpe.  For Chappy Manzer, who owns a landscaping company, this is his first venture in the restaurant business. He recalled being in his twenties, working as a bartender when Kelly’s Irish Pub was the restaurant in the building in the 1990s.  He’s looking forward to bringing a 14-foot Concolor fir tree to the plaza outside the station and lighting it in early December. “It’ll be a live tree and we can plant it somewhere after the season,” said Manzer, who also joined the partnership a few months ago. He said he formed a relationship with Shape during the pandemic when he was offering food to service industry workers who had lost their jobs. And he’s worked on a few projects with Lanza who owns buildings in Peekskill and is the proprietor of the Pink Iguana on South Division Street, Taco Dive Bar on Hudson Ave, and Railroad Avenue burrito joint Bajarito.

The train station’s original light fixtures now have LED bulbs.  Photo by Regina Clarkin

The Central opens with 16 staff members, most of whom are part timers. They have been trained for two weeks, and Shape will be bringing on more staffers as the restaurant and 2,000 square-foot outdoor patio opens. He’s looking to have a ‘grab and go’ section in the coffee shop, and wants to make take out rotisserie chickens a staple on the menu in an effort to cater to NYC commuters as they return to Peekskill in time for dinner.   

The Central is open from 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday.