Tavern owner John Leone is endowed with the imposing bulk of a bar bouncer or a discus thrower – both of which he was during his undergraduate years at Iona College.
“That’s how I got started in the business, as a bouncer on North Avenue,” said the 32-year-old Dobbs Ferry resident, who majored in business management at Iona on North Avenue and competed in track and field for the Gaels as a shot put and discus thrower. “I wanted to get involved in one of my own one day.”
“Greeter” is the less intimidating, more customer-friendly title that Leone prefers for his former moonlighting job in New Rochelle and his occasional service at the door of his new establishment in downtown White Plains, Beechmont Tavern. The business at 213 E. Post Road is the second of his that bears the Beechmont name.
Its painted mascot is Beechmont Man, a handlebar-mustached barman in sleeve garters and a red pinstriped shirt that bespeak a bygone era when Buffalo wings had not yet become a staple of every American bar with a deep fryer out back. The same Beechmont Man is the iconic stained-glass image that greets guests inside the door of the original Beechmont Tavern at 750 North Ave. in New Rochelle.
A popular student hangout, the brick-faced tavern opened in 1928 under another name, said Leone. Singer-songwriter Don McLean, a graduate of nearby Iona Preparatory School, immortalized it as “the Levee” in his 1971 folk rock ballad “American Pie.”
“I became familiar with the Beechmont from going to Iona,” said Leone. “I loved the history of the Beechmont and what it stands for.
“My wife and I met at the Beechmont. We were just two students hanging out. It took me a pursuit to get her to consent” to marriage. “It took a little working on it.”
In 2010, Leona bought the place where he and his wife began their own intimate history. Last year, he went searching in Westchester County for a venue where he could repeat what he said has been the Beechmont’s simple recipe for success: “cold beer and wings. That’s kind of what we push here. Forever, the big thing at Beechmont was the wings.”
The sauce recipe, of course, is secret.
“I was looking for a small enough location in a big enough city to do what we do,” said Leone.
He found it at a Silverman Realty Group property in downtown White Plains at the eastern end of the row of restaurants and bars that has sprung up in recent years along Mamaroneck Avenue and East Post Road. Beechmont Tavern opened on the eve of Thanksgiving Day last year after a six-month renovation in space vacated by Korova Milk Bar. The tavern employs five workers, as does the original Beechmont.
Will Beechmont Man appear in other Westchester cities?
“We always keep our options open,” said Leone. “We definitely look forward to growing the Beechmont name.”