At 226 Gilman Ave. there sits a lovely little building known, since 1947, as the Busy Bee. Since its opening, this company has held the hearts of this town by filling their stomachs with its homemade food and local recipes. Today, Mr. Larry Sloter has brought the beloved ‘quintessential neighborhood diner’ back to life. Mr. Sloter purchased the building from Georgeanna Wade and Donna English in 2016 and has put a tremendous effort into restoring and rebranding the business. He took the idea of a local diner and raised it to a whole different level. All of the food created here is made in-house via 30 local suppliers.
They’re open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day and if you are looking for a fantastic meal, incredibly friendly service, and an all around wonderful experience, then this is the place for you. Also, if you are in the mood for a bit of a challenge, feel free to try their pancake or bacon cheeseburger challenge!
The building itself also has a fascinating history. It was built at 226 Gilman Ave. around 1888 by George Storck. Storck built this building to be his confectionary, bakery, and ice cream parlor. He worked until 1924, when he sold it to Henry G. and Maude E. Storck. Thus, it continued to be Storck’s Confectionary until 1940, when Maude retired, and the building went vacant. It stayed empty until 1945, when Orian J. McConaha purchased it to be their residence until 1947.
Interestingly, the business name ‘Busy Bee’ first showed up in town in 1945 at 607 Putnam Street, and in 1947 it moved to its current location in Harmar. The gentleman who owned and ran the business was Donovan Williamson until 1954, when it was sold to Harry T. and Lily Mae Roberts. They reopened the business on April 1st, 1954. From here onwards, many people remember coming here before or after school for a snack or to hang out with friends, and many of the patrons who still eat here today could tell you lovely stories about what it was like when the Roberts’ ran the house. This is the era where the Busy Bee first earned its reputation.
Sadly, Harry passed in 1994, but it is believed by many of the current and past staff that he is still in the building. Many have recounted stories where the water would turn on by itself, doors will open but no one visible walks through, and occasionally thuds or footsteps can be heard on the upper floor when no one is there.
Regardless, Lily continued to run the business until 2002 when she sold the business to her daughter and son-in-law, Christina and Greg Patten. They kept the family business until 2005, where on January 23rd at 11:44 a.m., they were subject to a fire after Greg was attempting to thaw frozen pipes. They were able to reopen by February 13th, but the company did close by 2006. It reopened in April but was closed again by November. The Busy Bee reopened one more time on April 1st, 2008 by Georgeanna Wade and Donna English in homage to the Roberts’ opening date. They did their best to bring back the life the Busy Bee once had and succeeded and sold the business to Larry Sloter in 2016.
Nowadays, you may have to fight for a seat since there are about 20 daily regulars, 40 weekly regulars, and more who simply come as often as they can. Next time you need a great experience; go, find a seat, and enjoy a hearty meal surrounded by friendly faces.