SCHENECTADY — Barbara and Michael Naumoff have seen a lot in the nearly five decades they’ve owned and operated Slick’s Restaurant & Tavern in the Stockade.
The small bar on the corner of South Ferry and Liberty streets gave them a front row seat to the city’s economic collapse brought on by the decline of General Electric, as well as a firsthand look at downtown’s redevelopment in recent years, including the revitalization of lower State Street, just a short walk from the beloved city establishment.
But it’s the people that have frequented the bar since the Naumoffs took ownership 48 years ago in 1974 that have left the greatest impression, and they are what the couple will miss most when they retire at the end of business on Friday.
“This is 48 years of our lives,” said Michael Naumoff. “And we’ve made friends over that 48 years that are almost like family. … I’m going to miss that coming to work every day.”
The Naumoffs announced plans to retire last month in a Facebook post that garnered hundreds of interactions from loyal customers within hours, with many leaving comments about plans to stop by for one last jaw-stretching sandwich that has made the establishment famous over the years.
“…We would like to thank all of our friends, family, friends that have become family and all of our loyal customers,” the post reads in part. “We couldn’t have done it without all of you. Especially these last few years…”
On Sunday morning, the Naumoffs sat at the bar and reflected on the last 48 years and discussed their future plans, which include a knee replacement for Michael, catching up with family, attending Union hockey games together and maybe even a cruise.
The couple bought the business from Doug Slick, a father figure for Michael, who himself worked at the bar in the years prior to purchasing the business.
They decided to keep the original name in hopes of capitalizing on the name recognition, but had plans to add hot food items like burgers to the menu.
But the plans never materialized after Slick, who still lived in the apartment upstairs years after he sold the business, didn’t want to deal with the smell, a request the couple had no problem accommodating after learning what it would cost.
“He [Slick] didn’t want any cooking down here,” Michael Naumoff said. “And that was OK, because when I found out how expensive a ducted hood system was, it was $4,000 more than I had at the time.”
Instead the Naumoffs kept to the basics, selling only bottled beer and massive sandwiches (corned beef; turkey; ham and cheese; and roast beef) that could easily be spread out over two meals.
The model worked. Business grew steadily in the early years and remained profitable even as the city’s economic prospects declined.
Barbara Naumoff recalled how the establishment used to remain open until 4 a.m. to accommodate third-shift GE workers who got out an hour earlier.
But the third-shift days are long gone, and the Naumoffs have reduced to bar’s hours over the years to better meet the demand and to accommodate their own lives. The couple has operated the bar by themselves minus the help of a friend who would step in part time so the Naumoffs could attend family functions.
The community has remained loyal throughout all the changes, even as the restaurant was reduced to takeout orders only in the early days of the pandemic.
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“People down here were just fantastic to us,” Barbara Naumoff said. “They just kept us going. All our customers were so great to us.”
The Naumoffs said business has skyrocketed since they announced plans to retire, with the bar packed throughout the day, and on some occasions, more than a dozen customers waiting to be seated.
Things have been so busy the restaurant’s supplier has had difficulty tracking down corned beef and turkey, and Barbara is unable to meet the demand for her homemade macaroni salad.
“It’s been so busy,” she said.
Customers have also flooded the business’s Facebook page, wishing the Naumoffs well in retirement and sharing memories they made in the establishment over the years.
“Well, I guess I’d better get down there!” reads on comment. “I’m happy for you; a well deserved retirement.”
“We will all miss you and also those sandwiches that were always top quality,” another commenter said. “You’ve both accomplished something to be exceptionally proud of.”
But with less than a week before stepping away from the business, the Naumoffs said they have no plans to relocate. In fact, they plan to lease the business to a young couple, who intend to run things the same, with just a few minor changes.
Until then, the couple is planning to spend the final week serving customers for the final time and saying their last goodbyes.
“The big thing for us is the people we’ve met over the years. I can’t stress that enough,” Michael Naumoff said.
Slick’s Restaurant & Tavern will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the kitchen closing at 7 p.m. through Friday.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.