OCEAN CITY — One of the resort area’s most well-known restaurants and bars is getting a little bigger.
Construction on an addition to Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon on 28th Street is expected to be complete this week.
Owner Doug “Buxy” Buxbaum explained that the extra room will mostly be used to display merchandise and as a waiting area, though there will be some general expansion as well.
“It gives us the opportunity to open the kitchen up,” he said.
The addition has been on Buxbaum’s radar for a long time.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for the last few years,” he said.
According to Buxbaum, the decision to commit to an expansion this year could foreshadow more growth in the future.
“We’re looking to expand in the next few years,” he said.
When he opened a bar in Ocean City in 1999, Buxbaum was searching for a way to cater to locals, while still sticking to his western Pennsylvania roots. That dual goal eventually turned into Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon.
“It’s exceeded all expectations,” said Buxbaum.
The saloon, located on 28th Street, has found a niche as one of Ocean City’s most-popular Pittsburgh bars. Sports memorabilia from teams like the Steelers and the Penguins line the wall. Buxbaum said that he tried to bring a little bit of home with him when he opened the tavern. He also pointed out that visitors from Pennsylvania make up a large percentage of the tourists that gravitate to Ocean City every summer.
But Buxbaum didn’t want to rely on out-of-state vacationers for business; one of his goals was to fit his saloon into the community, something he believes he’s achieved.
“It’s been pretty much a landmark, locally,” he said.
Buxbaum noted that his bar “has something for everyone.” There are large TV’s, wings, burgers and beer for anyone who wants to spend a Sunday afternoon watching a Steelers game or other sports during the week. But there’s also an extensive menu of offerings and an aim to be family oriented.
“We’re really proud of the food we put out,” he said.
Buxbaum explained that it’s a bar where you bring your kids in for lunch during the day and then come back at night and let loose.
The building as it is now is a far cry from what it was just over a decade ago when Buxbaum became the owner.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of renovations,” he said.
More than the physical face of the building has changed. Before it was Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon, the site hosted several other businesses, not all as friendly as the current saloon, according to Buxbaum.
“It was a rougher bar,” he said, referring to the previous establishment before he took over.
Buxbaum said he wanted to change that image, to make his bar more accessible. To do so, he used the years of experience that he had gained working in other bars, many of them in Ocean City.
“I took a lot of good out of those places,” Buxbaum said.
With that knowledge and a general goal, Buxbaum started the bar.
“Things boomeranged from there,” he said.
Though he might have his name on the sign out front, Buxbaum stressed that running the bar is more than a one-man effort.
“The most important part is the staff,” he asserted.
In his opinion, the bartenders, cooks and wait staff that work for him are more than just employees; they’re part of the image and appeal of the bar.
“They’re proud, not only to work here, but also to represent the Salty Dog,” said Buxbaum.
Besides the staff, Buxbaum highlighted the involvement of family. He called his parents “a tremendous part” of the operation and admitted that he looks to his wife Annie for support all the time.
“She takes care of a lot of the marketing … I would have been out of business without her,” he said.
Though Buxbaum says he loves what he does, the life of a restaurateur isn’t something that he’d recommend to everybody, especially with the current economic climate.
Food and alcohol cost more now than they did a decade ago when Buxbaum started and not all of that is from inflation. Owning a popular bar also can wreak havoc with your schedule, according to Buxbaum. He admitted that he was recently held up six hours by a steady stream of customers on a night he predicted would be slow.
However, Buxbaum said that unusual hours and coming into contact with new people are some of the things he enjoys most about the business.
“I wouldn’t give it up for the world,” he said.
While the construction of an addition is a sign that business is good, Buxbaum recognized that success today could turn into trouble tomorrow.
“You can’t look into that crystal ball,” he said.
For the time being, Buxbaum plans on taking things one step at a time, hoping to expand again in the future while keeping the business in his family for years to come.