43-year Family Business Is An Inn Thing The Graterford Hotel Remains A Popular Spot.

Posted: December 10, 1997

GRATERFORD — When Angelo Butera describes the Graterford Hotel as a family business, he means it. He was born and raised in the two-story hotel.

Last year, when he was 39 and had been married for 10 years, Butera, wife Lisa, and their two children moved into their own home - a mere 250 yards away from the hotel.

``I'm working hours like crazy,'' Butera said of his 50-hour schedule at the hotel, which he now runs. ``But I like it. I'm my own boss.''

The hotel was built in 1876 on what is now Route 29, across the street from the state prison. It went through 19 owners before it was bought by Butera's father, Angelo Sr., and his mother, Joane, for $23,000, in 1954.

The younger Butera took over the business almost 30 years later.

``Mom cooked Italian,'' he recalled recently. ``It was always a family scene. I was the last of four kids. I was doing the books when I was 13, and I've been doing them ever since.''

His parents, now in their 70s, still come by and work about 10 hours a week. Joane Butera makes special dishes for some long-term customers, who join her in the kitchen.

The hotel holds onto its past as much as it serves the tastes of the present.

A menu promoting hoagies hangs beside a photograph of women lounging on the porch with their parasols. The bar is scarred with cigarette burns dating back to the time the hotel was built, and the scuffed wooden floors echo with each step. A turn-of-the-century cash register is on display in the adjoining dining room.

``This is a restaurant where a guy can come by for a sandwich and beer and watch the hockey game,'' Butera said. But only on weekdays; the place closes for the weekend.

Spaghetti and clam sauce, made using a 43-year-old family recipe, is one of the more popular menu items, Lisa Butera said, noting, ``You have guys come in just for their spaghetti fix.''

Although she likes living away from the hotel, she said, she is having trouble getting used to modern appliances, after years of cooking without benefit of temperature gauges.

``I never burned anything before,'' Lisa Butera said. ``Now, I do. I sometimes walk over here to cook and then walk back to the house.''

Silent film actors and one president have slept in the 10 rooms on the second floor of the hotel. Herbert Hoover scrawled his name into the hotel ledger in 1928, just above the signature of his Democratic opponent, New York Gov. Al Smith.

The rooms are now rented to Graterford Prison personnel, many of whom journey from Allegheny County, Angelo Butera said. They stay during the week and return home on their days off.

``There aren't any jobs in their area, so they come out here to work,'' he said.

Many of the boarders stay seven or eight years, Lisa Butera said. One man rented a room for 25 years.

Corrections officer William Kriedler has lived in the hotel for three years. He spends his days off with his wife and 3-year-old son in Pittsburgh.

``I love it,'' he said of the hotel. ``It feels like family here. The lady cleans the rooms once a week and gives you fresh linen. This is my second home.''

The restaurant fell to Angelo Butera by default. His brother Ned left Pennsylvania to work in New York, and his sister Rose Mary married and moved to Hatfield.

Angelo and his brother Peter made plans to co-own the business after their parents retired, but Peter was killed in a car accident in 1980.

``It was a devastating loss,'' Angelo Butera said. ``It took years to come out of that depression.''

Angelo Butera started running the hotel for his parents in 1982. He bought it from them in 1988. Whether another generation of Buteras will inherit the business, he can't say.

``It's a dying breed, mom-and-pop stores,'' he said. ``The crazy hours and all. But I make a living and can raise my family. I'm happy with it.''

comments powered by Disqus