John Sharp likes to feed Peekskill. His masterly management of multiple dining destinations (including Gleason’s and Birdsall House) attests to that. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Peekskill in turn feeds John’s hearty appetite to make things happen that makes people happy.
His thirst for serving the City good food, good drink and good vibes is being quenched anew with an ambitious project that causes his voice to reverberate with excitement as he describes its far-reaching scope.
Introducing The Central. The name is new but the bones on which it hangs evoke a misty nostalgia for anyone in these parts who wolfed a burger or tipped a brew at the iconic PJ Kelly’s Restaurant and Pub.
The watering hole that transformed the Peekskill Metro North train station into a local version of TV’s “Cheers” closed in 2009.
Now, thanks to Sharp and his business buds — Louie Lanza of Hudson Hospitality Group and Chappy Manzer of Manzer’s Landscape Design — PJ’s is being reincarnated, and then some. Sharp told River Journal North his passion is not only to bring back the bar’s consumable spirits but also its contagious spirit.
The Central had a soft opening in November 2021, serving cafe food, coffee, and house made pastry. That’s but a foretaste of the menu living in Sharp’s mind.
In addition to table service, he said, customers will be able to take out restaurant food like rotisserie chicken, meats, and sides.
When The Central is full steam ahead next year, Sharp said he intends it to run virtually round the clock, from 5 a.m.-2 a.m. “This train station at some point will only be closed about three hours a day,” he said. “We’re going to wake people up and we’re going to put people to bed.”
By then, the current work force of 20 or so could triple in size. The Central is creating work for other Peekskill businesses as well. Sharp said he is the first client of Peekskill Coffee House’s new roastery at The Hat Factory, where another Central supplier, Hudson Milk, is housed. As for the baked goods, they are cooked up at The Factoria, also a Lanza-Sharp joint venture.
Another local business partner is Fred Dennstedt of Exurbanist Studio, who designed the richly appointed website (centralpeekskill.com).
Sharp is pushing himself to have the lounge portion of The Central slinging liquid refreshment by March 2022. That is when, he avows, “The old Kelly’s is going to rise on St. Paddy’s Day. It was a huge part of Peekskill. So many people want to be back at that bar. I want to be ready for the crush St. Paddy’s Day will be.”
Nobody who knows John Sharp doubts he will be ready for the crush. “I’ve opened a lot of places in Peekskill the last decade,” he said. “This has been a joy. I’m really excited about this spot.”
Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of River Journal North.