Editor's note: Editor's Note: This story is Part II of a two-part feature on the Iron Horse, a landmark and once bustling hotel which its owner is trying to restore to its former glory in Alburtis.
Iron Horse owner Hermann Sulderits knows he must address the 126 code violations before he can hope to re-open his Alburtis hotel and restaurant.
After years of unsuccessfully trying to secure a bank loan to bankroll the necessary upgrade, Sulderits was forced to shutter the facility in June of 2011.
He next made the bold move of selling the liquor license to pay off some debt and fund capital improvements, including a new roof for a portion of the building, a new electrical system and repointing the brickwork.
But, he is almost out of money again and with lots still to do.
Admitting that the project is in need of a cash infusion, Sulderits has a "for sale" sign on the porch. His price is $289,000.
However, he would prefer to find a bank that would offer him a loan or a partner who would bring in capital in exchange for learning the business from him. All of those offers are still waiting for acceptance.
Sulderits, an Austrian immigrant, has been a restaurateur for 57 years. He bought the Alburtis location, formerly known as The American House Restaurant, in 1975. He also owned the Alpine Hotel, also known for a time as Trach's Hotel, in Tannersville, Monroe County. Problems there cut into his finances.
Despite the closed Tannersville hotel and, at least temporarily, the shuttered Alburtis venture, Sulderits considers himself a good businessman. He believes it is important to upgrade a hotel at least every 10 years, but he says that wasn't possible in Alburtis with the problems that began in Tannersville.
He also admits to other problems that stemmed from personal burnout. He said that hiring sharp and trustworthy employees is critical. Failure to do that cost him, as did an aggressiveness to maintain his edge in keeping up with food trends and demands by customers. Add to that the chain restaurants that moved to the area, and a picture of decline begins to emerge.
Council President Steven Hill said problems have not just occurred in recent years. He estimates that it probably has been 20 to 25 years since The Iron Horse really thrived.
Sulderits maintains his pride but accepts the criticism, knowing what the situation has become. He said that he has been trying for about five years to get a loan to turn things around, but money has tightened up and the building has further declined.
Still, Sulderits persists. His goal is to re-open with the flavor of "an old-fashioned country hotel." The basic premise? "To give the customer their money's worth."
He has hopes of re-opening by Christmas. However, that remains to be seen.
His plan would be to start small. He first hopes to restore and re-open a few of the rooms for lodging. Next, he would re-open the restaurant, first with a limited menu and then build up to more elaborate dining. Then, he hopes to buy another liquor license and re-open the bar to make the restoration complete.
Despite significant expterior improvements, little has been touched inside. The bar area serves as a workroom for the cosmetic improvements, and significant work has not started on the guest rooms. In addition to the upgraded electrical system, some signs show movement toward addressing the code violations. Emergency lighting has been purchased, but still must be installed.
Hill wishes Sulderits luck, both personally and for the benefit of the borough. He said the borough could use another strong business, but the building is going to take a lot of work. He adds that the location has a lot going for it.
"But, do I see it happening in the near future? Not at all," Hill said.
"We all hope that he can make something of the place," he added. "[But] we don't realisitically believe it will happen unless he gets a buyer or a partner."
Still, Sulderits is determined.
"It's my home for 37 years," he said. "I know what it was, and it can be that again."