Created: January 20, 2020 07:00 PM
ALBANY -- The decorations are up at Pepper Jack's, which celebrating 20 years on the 20th in 2020.
"I cannot believe it," said owner Phil Stein. "First it was like let's get through 20 days. And now, 20 years later, it's here."
Since Phil Stein and Chris Soden started Pepper Jack's two decades ago, many things have changed over the years, but the Philly cheesesteaks are still the most popular order.
Pepper Jack's is now on North Allen Street in Albany. When it moved in the past, customers followed.
"Some people it means when they order from their office on Fridays, it's Pepper Jack's day," said Stein. "Or some people grew up with hangovers in college and Pepper Jack's was the cure for that."
It's a destination, that also gets neighborhood walk-ins.
"One thing I realized which I didn't know when I was 23 was how much you're going to have to evolve," said Stein. "When you're thinking about staying in business for a few weeks or a month, or try to get through that first year, you don't think what will we have to do to stay alive for 20 years."
The independently owned business employs delivery people. Now there are also third party apps like Door Dash, which Soden says become like business partners you never asked for.
"They like to say they provide you with more customer base, which they do, but they take a large percentage and with the margins that available in the restaurant, I can't see paying that percentage," said Soden.
The owners say one challenge facing most small restaurants is labor-- finding and retaining staff-- and the cost of that labor now.
But through it all, Pepper Jack's continues to serve up food that brings the customers back again and again.
"I'm very fortunate to be where I am," said Soden. "I had a great business partner throughout this whole thing. A friendship and a business relationship is hard to keep balanced and I'm really blessed with everything that we have."
To show appreciation to customers, Pepper Jack's is offering 20% off all orders Monday.
They're looking forward to the next decade, and what that will bring for them.
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