Editor's Note: The family name of the Burger Den owners is Baratto, originally misspelled. Greg's son's name is Marco
CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- A family of entrepreneurs, the Barattos have turned a now 39-year business into what it is today from the start of Albert Baratto's popcorn vendor cart.
Greg Baratto, Burger Den's owner and operator, recalled his youth working with his brothers, sister and his mom, Gladys, selling popcorn every day of the week in the town of Cambridge.
"We all went to Cambridge High School and we worked in the popcorn wagon nights and weekends because it was a business," Baratto said. "People knew us and we were very consistent."
In 1975, Greg Baratto went into business with his parents when they jointly purchased a shack on State Route 22 between Schoolhouse Lake and Dead Lake. Once called the "Burger Den" in the 1960s, the small building stood vacant for several years before the Baratto took it over. They kept the name.
"Us kids kind of grew up and nobody really knew what they wanted to do and I went to learn how to cut hair and I didn't really want to do that. I knew food was my thing, and the work ethic was ground into us by our parents," Greg Baratto said.
Several renovations and expansions later, Greg Baratto now runs the Burger Den, 2869 New York 22, with his wife Lisa Baratto, and his son Marco Baratto.
"We learned what people wanted by listening to our customers, our salespeople and our employees. None of us went to school for any of this. We just developed it on our own: Trial and error."
As the business grew in size and in returning clientele, the Baratto sustained many long-time employees and oversaw many of its servers retire off of their wages.
When the Burger Den was established, the menu was limited and most of the ingredients were frozen.
The menu has grown to incorporate much more than burgers: Hot and cold sandwiches, Italian food, seafood, beer and drinks. Most notably, 29-year-old Marco Baratto has spearheaded the restaurant's effort to prep and cook everything fresh, using local and natural ingredients.
"Some people are still stuck in the old ways: We have great senior citizen business, and we love those customers, but we have a lot of young families too. You cannot be stuck in the 70s and 80s: You have to make your restaurant, your menu and your attitude current."
The restaurant's location brings its customers a vast view of two lakes. The Baratto and their employees derive most of their business from returning customers, but also from takeout orders and travelers passing through.
Greg Buratto's brother, Mike Baratto, a retired teacher from Hoosick Falls Central School, goes to the restaurant for a meal a few times a week. He said he admires his family's success in starting a business from scratch and won't restrain himself from helping out when it's busy.
"To withstand almost 40 years is a true testament to those very qualities that make businesses succeed: Cleanliness, quality and customer service," Mike Baratto said.
The Baratto go out of their way to display to their customers how clean they keep the business: With a view into the kitchen from across the dining room, clean restrooms and a kitchen staff that is always wearing gloves.
With its recent house-made push on the menu, the restaurant offers turkey or black bean burgers from scratch to appeal to more people.
The Burger Den's menu features seven specialty burgers, each made in a unique way, ranging in size from small two-ounce sliders to one-pound beef patties. The Buratos use locally-sourced, never-frozen USDA-choice ground chuck from Yushak's Supermarket in Shushan, New York.
The Burger Den is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner: From 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer, Tuesday through Sunday. Find it on Facebook or online at http://burgerden.com/.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg