On the corner of Court Street and Main Street in Owego stands the old jailhouse, home of the Tioga County Sheriff for a long time, then abandoned when the new facility was built on Corporate Drive.
“I think it’s a cool reuse of an old building,” Clark Hepworth said of the home of the restaurant he operates with his wife Karlyn, the Calaboose Grille.
“We have customers who spend time here and come in and tell some stories,” Hepworth said, “and we have some people who work for the Sheriff’s Department that come in and tell us stories too.”
It’s hard not to notice that you’re in an old jail when you come into the Calaboose, which is another word for ‘jail’ if you’re wondering. The doors are gone, but several columns of bars remain, separating the booths on the East and tables on the West side of a hallway created by the remaining evidence of incarceration. The bars are black, and stand out against the brightly painted walls of the Calaboose.
Carol Livermore further enlightens the ambiance with several paintings. “She’s sold quite a few,” Karlyn Hepworth said, “and she had her first date here with her fiancée.” They’re regulars now, and come in most Thursdays while the Calaboose presents artists of another sort.
The Calaboose began hosting live music on Thursdays this summer, which was such a success that the Hepworth’s are continuing the live attraction with the Fall Music Series. When the weather gets too cool for outdoor performances, the fun will come inside, according to Clark Hepworth.
Everything at the Calaboose is centered on the customer experience. An example is the Belly Club, which gives loyal customers points for just coming through the door and waving their card in front of a touchpad for food and drink specials each day of the week including seniors, public employees and tourists. The Calaboose goes out of its way to ensure their customers will keep coming back.
“We like to do things to spark interest beyond good food and good service,” Clark Hepworth said. “The customers love it and have fun,” he added. We have so many great customers, they’re like family.”
Others have found out about the Calaboose, and they’re not from around here. Hepworth notes that Owego is centrally located along Route 17/86, and the Calaboose is located along the route to Ithaca. Several people have come in that have found the Calaboose Grille online and decided they had to stop and check out the unique restaurant that’s already an Owego icon. The Calaboose has developed a lot of tourist business, helped along by positive online reviews.
Drawing in people from outside the area is just what Hepworth wants to see. He wants to see more restaurants in Owego; he wants Owego to have a reputation of always having interesting good food to choose from and interesting fun things going on.
“Get happy, eat here, you’ll enjoy yourself and come back,” Hepworth said.
The Calaboose Grille is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Find them online at calaboosegrille.com.