CATTARAUGUS — People looking for a unique place to dine while enjoying great food can find it at The Jenny Lee Feed Mill, a new restaurant on Main Street.
Owners Paul and Linda Macakanja opened the establishment in mid-August. Together, they have created a feed mill-themed restaurant reminiscent of days gone by when mills of all kinds dotted the landscape of the area.
Paul Macakanja said they are using this theme as a tribute to all the old, hardworking millworkers and factory workers.
Macakanja said their place has a lot of character and there are a lot of details for people to look at while they are eating. It’s almost like a museum within a restaurant and he’s always on the hunt for antiques from the old local mills. He said people keep bringing in old pictures and artifacts that have been a sense of pride for the town.
In 1914, the site of The Jenny Lee Feed Mill was Smith & Town Groceries and Tobacco. The business was owned by Mike Weishan’s great-grandparents, so he brought a photo in.
The décor of the establishment is historical from the floor to the ceiling and on every wall. Upon entering, one cannot miss the old metal ceiling with the original lettering, “J.H. Gray Milling Co., est. 1921.” Macakanja said it was siding from the old Gramco Mill in Little Valley.
When he went looking for rusty materials to repurpose, Macakanja saw some tin along the Pat McGee Trail that belonged to Michael Stang, a contractor in Ellicottville. Stang purchased the James H. Gray Mill that later became Gramco, Inc., in Little Valley, about 12 years ago.
In 2015, Stang took the siding off the structure and reclaimed the lumber for flooring. Along with the wood flooring, he sold Macakanja the tin and loaned him the Gramco sign.
“We had one of the mills in our town. There were seven of them and ours burned, so it seemed like it was meant to be,” he said. “It gave us a theme and it gave us a connection to the history of our area.”
To bring life back into the old flooring, they treated it with boiled linseed oil which, Macakanja said, is an old-school way of finishing wood. He said it takes a little while to dry, but it nourishes the wood and exudes the character of the lumber.
Inside the front door is a hostess station created from a 1930s vintage floor model radio. Behind the station is a horse stall door that separates the Jenny Lee diner and the restaurant on the other side.
The bar was built from an old general store counter that was stored in The Jenny Lee basement for decades. A century-old safe door from the old Setter Brothers factory is mounted on the wall at the end of the bar, near the kitchen.
The Macakanjas built a small stage called the Loading Dock where guest performers play acoustic music as people dine. Paul Macakanja said they plan to have performers about every third week. Decorating the space is an authentic block and tackle, along with three original aprons from the James H. Gray Milling Co./Gramco Feeds.
A conveyer belt in the corner by the Loading Dock runs while they are open. Macakanja said it was used to move grain in the Thorpe & Mann Mill in South Dayton. Over on the side wall is an Invisible Automatic Magnetic Separator that was a machine used in the feed mill industry at the turn of the century.
Macakanja credits John Miller and his crew from Cattaraugus that did much of the work in the new restaurant, as well as Chris Schneider of Angola who crafted the unique lighting fixtures including a huge chandelier-type light made from two 1940 fire truck ladders with a wheat sifter on the bottom. He said the whole idea was to have a lot of Edison lighting to create an ambience that looks like the 1930s.
THE LITTLE VALLEY couple have owned and operated the Jenny Lee Country Store & Diner next door for nearly 12 years. Macakanja said they’ve actually been in the diner and food business for 16 years because they had another Jenny Lee in South Dayton from 2003 to 2013. He said they ran the Jenny Lee diners in both locations for four years until they sold the one in South Dayton.
Including their daughter Marissa and chef Troy, the couple employ 13 people between their two businesses.
Their newest addition, The Jenny Lee Feed Mill, was formerly occupied by the former Church Of Corinth. Needing more space, the church moved to another building where they expanded and changed their name to the Victory Tabernacle.
“They offered this building to us four or five years but at the time we were busy running our Jenny Lee diner and store, so we temporarily rented the space to a couple of small businesses,” he said.
Eight beer taps dispense domestic and draft-style beer at the bar. They also sell bottled beer, wine and cider. Macakanja said they don’t do any spirits because they are more about the food. He said they average 150 to 180 fish fries a weekend.
“It’s important that people know we do fish fries on both Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. “We also do prime rib and steak dinners on Saturdays.”
The Jenny Lee Feed Mill is located at 19 North Main St. in Cattaraugus. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended for parties over six on Friday and Saturday nights.
The business is open on Sundays during Bills football season from noon to 6 p.m. Otherwise it’s closed both Sunday and Monday, but is available to rent for private parties only. For more information, call 257-3333 or visit them on Facebook.
(Contact press reported Deb Everts at email@example.com)