Schenectady County

Months after fire, Oscar’s getting ready to reopen

The charred ruins of Oscar’s Smokehouse were still smoldering when the Quintal family resolved to re

The charred ruins of Oscar’s Smokehouse were still smoldering when the Quintal family resolved to rebuild their landmark business.

Joq Quintal was already scribbling down ideas for the layout of the new structure. Mike Munter, a Middle Grove builder who designed an addition on the old building, was offering suggestions for the new facade.

Now, less than six months after the fire all but leveled the popular business, the Quintal family is getting ready to start smoking its prized meats and cheeses again.

“It’s really come a long ways,” said Quintal, as he surveyed the spacious retail area in the front of the new building. Joq Quintal, known as Jake, is the manager of the business founded by his grandfather, Oscar Quintal, in the 1940s.

Workers have nearly completed the new facade, installed two state-of-the-art smokers and are putting the finishing touches on the interior. Within the next two weeks, Quintal is hoping to have the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspect the new facility, which could allow smoking to begin during the first week in February.

“Everybody is champing at the bit waiting to get back,” he said recently.

From the outside, the new Oscar’s looks remarkably like the old Oscar’s. The building’s eaves and red barn siding seem almost identical to those consumed by flames in early September.

But the new store is anything but the Oscar’s of old. The front counter area was expanded from 250 square feet to about 1,125 square feet, which will allow the new store to streamline service. There’s a deli and even a small sitting area.

Overall, the 9,500-square-foot building is slightly smaller than its predecessor, which was composed of three wings that were added on to the original, built in 1946. The more open floor plan allows better use of space, Quintal said.

Modern smokers should also help keep Oscar’s product more uniform and will also help increase capacity.

One of the large walk-in smokers will be capable of smoking a ton at one time, Quintal said.

The new facility features geothermal heating, LED lights and uses propane instead of oil, all of which will make it far more energy efficient.

All the improvements boosted the overall cost of the project to about $1.5 million — $500,000 more than the insurance settlement from the fire — but will help reduce overhead by thousands of dollars each year.

Of course, there are still some relics.

They were able to salvage the old wooden cooler door from the fire and have attached it to the new walk-in by the front counter.

Bricks from the old smoker were also salvaged and used to make a monument to Oscar Quintal in front of the building.

And Oscar’s picture — one of the few things Jake Quintal was able to salvage from the burning building — will be returned to its normal place by the cash register.

The Quintals envision opening for business during the second weekend in February. They’ll need at least nine days to smoke their products once they receive federal approvals.

For many fans of Oscar’s — a frequent destination of skiers returning from Gore Mountain in nearby North Creek — the grand opening can’t come soon enough. On a sunny recent Saturday afternoon, a steady procession of vehicles drove to the end of Raymond Lane to the still-under-construction building, drivers hoping to find Oscar’s renowned smoked meats and cheeses.

“It’s a constant flow,” said owner Jerry Quintal, Jake’s father and Oscar’s son, as he watched another truck loop through the parking lot.

The fire and overall uncertainty over the fate of Oscar’s caused a regionwide scramble for the remaining inventory last fall. Less than a day after the fire, a woman called Bean’s Country Store in Queensbury inquiring if they still had some of Oscar’s applewood-smoked bacon.

“They said they had 25 pounds left,” Jerry Quintal recalled. “She said ‘Hold it, I’ll be there in a minute to buy it all.’ ”

Bob Dugan, the meat supervisor at the Niskayuna Co-op, witnessed a similar phenomenon. As soon as word got out about the fire, his supply of Oscar’s products was history.

“In about a day or so, the stuff was gone,” he said.

Dugan said he still fields frequent calls from customers wondering if and when the co-op will carry the brand again. He said the inquiries have only increased with the publicity around the coming grand opening.

“They’re deprived and they want it,” he said. “They’re waiting with anticipation.”

Jeff Moeckel counts himself among the many North Country visitors eagerly awaiting Oscar’s return. The Saratoga Springs resident and season-pass holder at Gore said he tries to get all his meat from the smokehouse because of its quality.

“We miss it.”

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