Business Columns & Blogs

Bits of Business: Lettermans eatery fills Damon’s shoes

Damon’s, along College Avenue in State College, changed ownership and is now called Lettermans.
Damon’s, along College Avenue in State College, changed ownership and is now called Lettermans. CDT photo

Changes are underway at Damon’s Bar and Grill.

First of all, call it Lettermans.

A partnership led by Scott Balboni purchased the eatery on East College Avenue in College Township last week. The name suggests a place for local athletes to congregate, but Balboni said it will be a multipurpose eatery.

He said remodeling will give the establishment a uniquely all-inclusive feel by creating a separate dining area for families, a 115-seat sports bar for fans and two party rooms for banquets.

The menu also will be updated to include upscale tavern food, entrees, traditional family foods and, of course, barbecue.

The restaurant will be open during renovations, which Balboni said could be done in May.

The restaurant will still be the location for Thursday night James Franklin and Patrick Chambers shows, Monday’s Rob Cooper show and Keith Conlin’s podcast.

Balboni previously owned Gingerbread Man, which sold its liquor license to what is now Primanti Bros. in downtown State College.

A change of scenery and partners provided him with a clean slate.

“It was a different investment group and different management tied to that,” he said. “Everyone in this is different.”

Never too late

Matthew Martinez worked in retail management and went back to school for a masters degree, but he said it never felt right.

He got tired of not feeling happy with his work.

The only solution, he said, was to start a business to help sooth other business’ sore eyes. And so, Martinez’s interior design business, Studio 216, was launched.

“I’ve always been interested in this,” he said. “It’s been a passion, and I wouldn’t say I never tapped into it. When we bought our house, I realized this is where I should’ve been working in from the beginning. I’ve always done projects and things for my parents and friends.”

It helped that friends and family pushed him to start the business.

“I got over the fear of doing this with their help and support,” he said. “If you start talking about your dream, those doors open for you. They helped me to pursue this.”

Martinez still gets tired some days.

“But it’s a different kind of tired,” he said. “I feel so satisfied, and it’s a great feeling to go to bed at night and have ideas pop into my head that I can put to use the next day.”

Got the Munchees?

Devon Warntz brought the munchies to State College.

Warntz cofounded Crunchee Munchees on West College Avenue between Sparks and Gill streets. The small restaurant serves cooked sandwiches and deep fried food, a combination Warntz said he hopes will serve lunchtime business people and late-night partiers well. Warntz’s favorite option, he said, is having Hartley’s chips on your sandwich.

“All of the meats are cooked in house, no deli, because didn’t want this to be just another sandwich shop,” Warntz, who graduated from Penn State last year, said. “I love this food. I feel like I know what the younger generation is looking for, and I think it’ll be great for businesses during lunch and for college-aged people late at night when they’re craving fried food.”

Warntz’ business partner, Hitham Hiyajneh, owns Pita Cabana and Underground Burgers and Crepes in downtown State College.

Having an experienced business partner, however, didn’t allow Warntz to simply ease into the business.

Crunchee Munchees opened March 18. Two days later, on a Friday, droves of people flocked to the eatery with the late-night munchies.

“We sold out, which is great for business, but we had to open a little late Saturday,” Warntz said. “It’s a little higher demand than we expected right off the bat, but that’s a good thing.”

In case you missed it

Karrie Argiro and Mel Glasgow reopened Bliss — A Full Service Salon in the Center for Well-Being. Scott’s Landscaping rebuilt its facilities after a fire decimated the original structure in November 2013. And Ciara Semack changed the name of Bella II to The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte.