COLUMBUS — The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) presented the Rural Small Business of the Year award on May 4 to Edsall Hodges, owner of the Columbus Public House located at 4301 State Rt 80 in Columbus, NY.
Small Business Administration Upstate New York District Director Bernard J. Paprocki presented the award on behalf of the United States Small Business Administration. He stated it was very appropriate to celebrate this business that started prior to the pandemic and made it through that tough time. He explained there was no industry impacted more than the restaurant business, so it’s very important to celebrate the person and the restaurant that made it through those times with perseverance and hard work.
Along with the rural small business award, a resolution was passed unanimously by the New York State Senate honoring the Columbus Public House, acknowledging and recognizing the investment Hodges, family and staff have made. It's part of the state archives and will be forever in history.
A proclamation was also presented from the Office of US Representative Marc Molinaro.
Many people gathered in the Columbus Public House restaurant to join the festivities and congratulate Hodges for his rural small business, integrity, grit, determination and leadership.
In attendance were: Hodges’ mom and daughter Emma, friends, staff, SBA Outreach and Marketing Specialist Katrina Ballard; who coordinated the event, SBA Upstate New York District Director Bernard J. Paprocki, New York Small Business Development Center Director Sonya Smith, New York State Senator Joe Griffo, President and CEO of Commerce Chenango Sal Testani, Chenango County Chairman George Seneck, New Berlin Mayor Peter Lennon and his wife Elaine, Town of Columbus Supervisor Diane Scalzo, and Sherburne Mayor Bill Acee.
Hodges said, “Thanks everybody for taking time out of your schedules to stop down to the Public House, we all appreciate it. The four ladies to the left of me, Shay, Riley, Emma and Brianna, were here when we started, when we shut down, opened back up and so we went from getting to know each other, getting to learn how to run a business in five months, to stopping and deciding what we were going to do. None of us wanted to go back to where we came from, job-wise, so we figured it out.”
“Then when we opened back up at half capacity, we figured that out as well. Now, we're running as strong as ever. And it's because of these four ladies over here. We figure everything out together, come up with solutions together, everything from our specials to our food, how we want to create it, to our atmosphere and wherever we want to set the coasters on the table. I'd like to thank Jay, Riley, Emma and Brianna. Thank you very much, I appreciate this,” said Hodges.
The Binghamton small business development center helped Hodges write his business plan and get his operation up and running. Columbus Public House also received Paycheck Protection Program funds from Community Bank to help him retain employees during the COVID pandemic.
In the face of COVID restrictions, Hodges and his daughter Emma made changes to help them stay in business by offering their menu on line and offering take out and delivery. They made a profit in 2020 and 2021, despite operating at half capacity.
New York State Senator Joe Griffo said, “When we talk about small business, it really is truly a cornerstone of our economy. Small businesses like the Columbia Public House show how it can be done and government doesn't make it easy, especially in the restaurant business.”
“It's a very trying job, business venture, especially with shortages in the workforce, and wild regulations were imposed upon the industry during the pandemic that made it extremely challenging to navigate, but in the end you did it,” said Griffo.
I think it's important we continue to invest in local business, shop and support our small businesses. This type of recognition is exactly what we can and should be doing,” he added.
Seneck said, “If you talk to people around the county, they know about the Columbus House and where it is. The food is tremendous, it really is. On behalf of the county board this is an outstanding achievement and will bring many into our communities. Thank you very much for your service and thank you for all the work you do and the good food which we definitely enjoy.”
New Berlin Mayor Peter Lennon said, “Congratulations, Edsall, congratulations to the team, congratulations to a great partner.”
Mayor Lennon explained the inconveniences of COVID and how the Columbus Public House team drew upon their experiences, adapted, and overcame. Instead of waiting for customers to come in, they went out to them and served their customers at their places of employment. Also, chicken barbecues were offered right in the parking lot. In fact, they had quite a little network out here that rivaled Chick-Fil-A.
“The operational processes here are only part of it, that's not what makes this place special. What makes it special are the folks we’re honoring and not just the product, but the people. Edsall is a leader, a mentor and a role model. He encourages everybody on the team to be creative, work hard, and take a sense of ownership,” Lennon said.
Mayor Lennon believes that Hodges and the Columbus Public House team should be a case study for every business school in America, because if it works in Columbus it will work across America.
Town of Columbus Supervisor Diane Scalzo said, “Of course we're thrilled to have the Columbus Public House here in Columbus and active and running again.
“The Public House was definitely a shining light for all of us out here during the pandemic. It was our connection to something that we could view as being normal in a time when there was so little that was normal and gave us hope that one day we would have normal again.”
Head of New York State Small Business Development Network Sonya Smith echoed the sentiments of what everyone shared about Hodges leadership, understanding his customers, and supporting his teams and thanked him for his service.
Edsall W. Hodges enlisted in the Marine Corp on November 12 in 1982. He was enrolled in the Marine Corp from 1983 to 1987 and was a jet mechanic who worked on A-6 Intruder Aircraft. He was stationed in California at El Toro Marine Corp Station for a part of his tour.
When he returned home he learned two different trades. He worked as a cook at local restaurant, then went on to run his own diner. He also worked as a carpenter for over twenty years. Both would support his future success in running his business.
The Columbus Public House was purchased by Hodges in 2011 and he took eight years to rehab and renovate the building. The restaurant was opened in 2019, just before COVID-19 pandemic.
The building’s dining rooms are small and cozy with beautiful wood floors, antique furnishings and historic photographs on the walls. The bar has an old-time feel to it and outside is a generous porch that is the length of the entire building. The upstairs is being remodeled into an elaborate ballroom.
The menu includes a wealth of mouth-watering meals such as shrimp scampi, homemade macaroni and cheese served with choice of side, Reuben nachos, pork chops with Portobello mushroom stuffing topped with sautéed apples and cranberries, and more.
The Columbus Public House was once know as the Columbus Hotel and established in 1793. The hotel was in its glory in the days of the Cortland to Albany stagecoach run.