Like many North Country residents, Andy Steuart fondly remembers trips to Zachary's Pizza in downtown Plattsburgh when it was at its height during the 1970s and '80s.

So when a business opportunity opened up to start a restaurant at the site of the former Pizza Palace at O'Brien Plaza at 1785 Military Turnpike in Plattsburgh, he knew right away what he wanted to do.

"We're completely separate from the one that used to be downtown (that closed in 2006)," he said of his new business, Zachary's Original, which seeks to re-create the taste and atmosphere of the former one that used to be so popular.

In fact, Steuart has acquired some of their original recipes.

"Basically, we're re-creating that flavor here in this restaurant," he said, adding that some people recall their parents taking them to the old Zachary's and now they come in with their children hoping to give them the same experience.

Steuart's family originally owned the Dairy Queen on Cornelia Street but sold it when the Air Base closed and the folks retired. He then spent 10 years in Florida where he ran a Ponderosa in Kissimmee.

"I grew up here," he said, explaining why he came back. "It's one of those things that when you're younger you don't realize what you have."

So, when a call came to come back to Plattsburgh to help run the Pizza Palace, he jumped at the chance. That arrangement worked for a while until his partner opted to go in another direction with a new building on Tom Miller Road.

For Steuart, starting his own location was a natural fit.

"I've been in the restaurant business my whole life," he said, explaining that he started with his dad cleaning up for 25 cents an hour when he was 12.

"Because I now knew the pizza business, I was thinking what I wanted to do," he said. "When I was a kid and used to eat at Zachary's, I thought the best thing I could do was re-create it."

He picked up some important pointers by talking to Lee Zachary, a former owner of the old pizza shop, and with the help of friends and family he took the plunge, despite the uneven economy.

Steuart said he'd encourage other entrepreneurs to do the same, and noted the number of new restaurants that have opened in the past few months in Plattsburgh.

"We've been able to employ 25 people here," he said. "That's the biggest thing I'm proud of, that we were able to employ people."

The main fare at the new restaurant is pizza, pasta and wings, with the original Zachary's recipes that date back to the '70s when he believes they were at their best. They are waiting for their beer and wine license.

Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday with full delivery available.

"The No. 1 thing we have is the pizza. It stands on its own," he said, adding that the calzones are also a menu highlight.

Without a partner this time, it's been a challenge getting everything up and running.

"The most difficult thing is I have to do is be in more than one place at one time," he said, adding that there's often a line of people waiting to talk to him.

He'd like to see the business grow, hire more workers and be active in the community, involved in every event possible as his family did with Dairy Queen.

"We want to be able to do that here," he said.

He also enjoys all the friends he missed seeing while he was in Florida and likes the interaction with his patrons.

"The best thing I like to do is go to my tables and talk to my customers," he said. "When they say 'I absolutely love it and I'll be back,' that way I know I've been doing my job. It's very satisfying."

For more information, call 561-0070.

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