The Hungry Hollow Fights Urban Blight

Restoring an Albany neighborhood with soup, salad, and sandwiches.


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The Hungry Hollow offers comfort food in the form of soups and sandwiches in Albany’s Sheridan Hollow neighborhood.

photos by Lauren Baideme

Four or five years ago, Jeopardy! flashed a shot of Albany’s Sheridan Avenue on the screen. The correct answer was “What is urban blight?”

That was then. Today, that same picture hangs on the wall of The Hungry Hollow, a cheerful white and blue café on that same Sheridan Avenue, which has played a vital role in the Sheridan Hollow Neighborhood Revitalization project.

The cafe is owned by a pair of retired state workers, Janet Rothacker and her husband John Baideme, who developed the business organically after getting more involved in the local community. “We were looking for a place to open a sandwich shop about six years ago,” explains Rothacker. “Then, in 2012, we read about a neighborhood revitalization project that was building a few housing units and commercial spaces. We thought that sounded really interesting, so we got involved.”

They dove right in — joining the neighborhood association, attending block parties, and bringing their delicious soups for all to sample. And, while they have no previous restaurant experience, the couple came to believe their passion for the project would allow them to succeed. They quickly recruited their son Chris Baideme, who graduated from Schenectady County Community College’s culinary arts program, as manager; and daughter, Lauren Baideme, as marketing manager. When they finally opened, the couple chose to hire from the neighborhood, providing jobs in the area they have grown to love.

Only open for breakfast and lunch, The Hungry Hollow has already made a name for itself with its fluffy, design-your-own omelets; an unusual yet popular pineapple pepper jack hamburger; creamy tomato soup with fresh basil; and their grilled-to-order chicken Caesar salad.

And then there’s the design  — full of photographs, retro clocks, and various items all handpicked by mom and daughter. Though the community vibe is strong, the screenshot from Sheridan Avenue’s 15 seconds of fame is, surprisingly, not the most popular. “The piece of decor that we get the most comments on is an old-fashioned 1940s white refrigerator door mounted on the wall,” describes Rothacker. “It’s filled with old, retro magnets and some magnets from local current points of interest, like the Nipper.”   

203 Sheridan Ave, Albany; 518.729.2745; www.hungryhollowalbany.com

 

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