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Corner Room Renovations Aim to Maintain Familiar Atmosphere While Providing ‘Much Needed Upgrades’

The Corner Room is in the midst of an approximately two-week closure while the downtown restaurant undergoes renovations, making the oldest of the Hotel State College & Co. properties the latest to get some remodeling over the last year.

Curtis Shulman, director of operations for Hotel State College, said the work will refresh the restaurant at 100 W. College Ave. while maintaining the longstanding atmosphere of comfort and familiarity that has made it “the traditional meeting place since 1926” for generations of residents, Penn State students and visitors.

“We’re just bringing much-needed upgrades to the facility…,” Shulman said. “…Guests are really just going to feel a much fresher space. It’s still going to very much feel like The Corner Room and it’s our top priority to make sure we preserve that familiarity and charm.”

The Corner Room closed on Monday and Shulman said the hope is to reopen on July 26

The one major structural change is actually a piece of history: the addition of the restaurant’s original breakfast counter from the 1930s.

“There were a couple over the last century. We chose to bring back the original,” Shulman said. “We’re going to bring that breakfast counter back to kind of pay homage to the past.”

The restaurant’s old carpeting is being replaced with more aesthetically pleasing and restaurant-friendly laminate flooring.

“Obviously carpets in a restaurant over the course of a century, it’s pretty gnarly what can get into there, so we’re trying to move away from that and just upgrading the overall aesthetics while maintaining that charm,” Shulman said.

The back seating area also is being revamped to have more open space to be able to accommodate meetings and other types of small gatherings.

Outside, repainting had already begun in June to refresh the restaurant’s longtime blue and white facade. Shulman said that because of the age of the building and repairs that need to be made along the way, the painting is a two- to three-month job.

“The exterior is really just painting, but with buildings that old and when there’s that many chips and stuff, it really takes a considerable amount of time to repair,” he said. “It will look pretty much exactly the same (as it did before).”

Not long after reopening, Shulman said, the Corner Room is expected to return to serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Recently, it has only offered breakfast during limited hours on weekends.

A second phase of renovations will come later in the year when the kitchen is redesigned, which Shulman expects will lead to an expanded menu.

“We want to get to a point where we have a little bit more of an elevated breakfast experience, some elevated food experiences, but it’s all going to fall in that realm of comfort food,” he said. “It’s going to feel very comfortable for everyone, just good food that reminds you of home and Happy Valley.”

Since acquiring the businesses in late 2019, Pat Croce & Co. — led by Penn State alumni Jeff Sorg and Michael Croce — has undertaken a longterm investment plan to upgrade the Hotel State College properties at the corner of West College Avenue and South Allen Street while maintaining their history.

The Allen Street Grill and Chumley’s both underwent months-long renovation projects, with the Grill reopening last September and Chumley’s welcoming patrons back in April.

Bill Pickle’s Taproom, Zeno’s and the Basement Nightspot were less in need of renovations, but have gotten some improvements as well.

“[Pickle’s] and Zeno’s and the Nightspot, the facilities are working,” Shulman said. “They weren’t going on a century of business without any love. We’re doing the upkeep so we can preserve their charm but obviously we need to get them into the 21st century, too. So we’ll make those thoughtful changes.”

Pickle’s got new TV screens and a new sound system, and, as customers and passersby have no doubt noticed, a new paint job on the outside.

The exterior of Bill Pickle’s Tap Room, 106 S. Allen St. in State College, got a new look for summer 2021. Photo by Matt DiSanto | Onward State

“We just wanted to be able to identify the space, make it kind of bold and pop more like a pub would or a taproom,” Shulman said.

In April, State College Borough Council approved a request to install a pedlet that will support outdoor dining at Pickle’s during warmer weather months. The seasonal walkway was approved to be in place from spring through fall within the two parking spaces directly in front of the 106 S. Allen St. tavern, connecting to the sidewalk and going around the Pickle’s seasonal outdoor deck. The walkway will be ADA accessible and have a fence along the street side.

Shulman said that company is aiming for the second week of August for the pedlet to be installed, noting that it had to wait for code approvals before it could be completed.

The Basement Nightspot is scheduled to reopen on Aug. 5, and the nightclub at 112 W. College Ave. will have new lighting and sound systems.

“It will be some cool changes you’ll really notice more on the dance floor, but the overall facility is going to maintain a pretty similar outlay,” Shulman said.

For The Corner Room, meanwhile, the renovations aren’t quite to the same extent as the Grill and Chumley’s, but Shulman is excited for the community to experience the result.

“I think that the community is going to receive it well and they’re going to feel good about the fact that their old warhorse, so to speak, is going to be around for another hundred years, just in a little more comfortable way,” he said.