05.18.2016 LIBN | LI’s first Stewart’s restaurant coming to Wantagh
By David Winzelberg

Already familiar to Long Islanders who travel outside the area, Stewart’s All American restaurant chain will open its first-ever Long Island location sometime this summer.

Stewart’s All American franchisee John Buono will soon begin building the restaurant in a 3,000-square-foot space in the Willow Wood Shopping Center on Wantagh Avenue in Wantagh. The new Stewart’s will be taking the combined space vacated by two stores, Spasso’s pizzeria and Ceriello Fine Foods, that left the shopping center.

Famous for its root beer and other fountain treats, the Stewart’s restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with table and counter service, offering a menu of burgers, hot dogs, cheesesteaks, fries, and ice cream desserts.

Started in 1924 by school teacher Frank Stewart in Mansfield, Ohio, the chain became a franchisor in 1931. Now based in Rutherford, N.J., Stewart’s currently has 35 locations in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia. A Stewart’s restaurant opened in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at the end of last year. The concept includes full-service sit down restaurants like the one coming to Wantagh, drive-ins, express Floats & Fries kiosks in malls and airports and mobile concession trailers. While some only operate seasonally, most, like the new Wantagh restaurant, are open all year round.

Buono, who served as a funeral director in Massapequa for 35 years, said he has a passion for food and was looking to open his own business. He looked into other restaurant franchises, such as Huddle House Diner and Chick-fil-A, before going with Stewart’s.

“I chose Stewart’s because it’s an up-and-coming franchise with a well-known brand name,” Buono said.

The franchise fee for a full-service Stewart’s restaurant is $35,000, according to the company’s website. Franchisees pay the corporation a royalty fee of 5 percent of sales as well as a $2,500 annual marketing fee.

Buono has a one-store deal in a protected territory that includes Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh and Seaford. Stewart’s is seeking additional franchisees to expand its presence in the tri-state region.

Buono said Stewart’s is primarily a unique family restaurant that fills a void of that genre in the neighborhood.

“That’s what’s needed in Wantagh,” Buono said.

Jayson Siano and Douglas Bomzer of Garden City-based Sabre Real Estate Group represented Stewart’s, while Robert Delavale was the in-house representative for landlord Breslin Realty Development in the Wantagh lease.

“We’re excited that we’re able to bring a fresh concept like Stewart’s to Long Island, especially since other family-friendly concepts like Friendly’s have closed locations here recently,” Siano said.