by Beth Peyton
Close to Midway State Park on Route 430, Tom’s Tavern has been a favorite watering hole in Maple Springs for a very long time. The main structure was built in the late 1800’s, when they used tree trunks instead of milled lumber for beams. Over the years, the place has been a bar and restaurant under many owners, and was a gas station and convenience store in the 1940s and 50s. It’s offered “food, spirits, and tomfoolery” for the last 16 years with Tom Stanton at the helm.
Known for good burgers, wings and pizza, Tom’s is a destination for locals, summer tourists and snowmobilers. “We get 300 to 400 sleds in here a weekend when the snowmobile trails are open,” Tom said. “And if there’s good snow, we’ll do about 40% of our annual business between Christmas and New Year’s. The economy in this county is really dependent on the weather, summer and winter.”
Local bands play every Saturday night, and dancing is encouraged. Bumper, one of the regular bartenders, pours beer and drinks and occasionally shakes his tambourine in time with the music. Nancy and Brian help Tom with food and drinks, too, and provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for regulars and newcomers alike.
Tom has a long history in the food service industry, and wanted to have his own restaurant for a long time before he bought the Tavern. One of six children – four boys and two “mistakes,” he jokes – Tom grew up in Sinclairville and still has a lot of family in the area. “There were 46 of us at the holiday dinner this year,” he said. “Next year we’re expecting at least 64.”
In addition to taking care of patrons during business hours, Tom does a lot to support the community, too. He furnishes the beer for the annual Labor Day picnic at the Maple Springs Fire Company, and has done a number of fundraisers over the years for customers and friends who have had accidents or illnesses, or otherwise found themselves in great need. The first Saturday after Labor Day is Tom’s anniversary party – a pig roast that feels like a block party he throws to show gratitude to loyal customers and the whole community. Halloween brings another party, with music and a costume contest. Otherwise responsible and respectable adults dress up in outlandish costumes and, at the designated time, line up outside. They march through the tavern twice – in the front door, out the back, and around again – to give appointed judges and patrons a good view. Prizes are awarded for the most original costume, the scariest costume and the funniest costume.
Families home for the holidays gather at Tom’s Tavern, and those who find themselves alone also have a welcoming place to go. Tom provides full fixings for a free Christmas Eve buffet, complete with a drink or two, until 5 p.m. The place closes so the employees can enjoy their Christmas, but opens back up on Christmas evening, providing another opportunity for folks to visit with friends and family, or to escape those loved ones who were welcomed so warmly earlier in the week. A band is featured for Tom’s New Year’s Eve party, too. “Walk or designate a driver if you plan to drink,” Tom says.
You can find Tom’s Tavern on Facebook, but he admits honestly, the page isn’t very well maintained. Tom is more of a social person than a “social media” person. The schedule for upcoming bands is posted on a board inside the tavern, so you might want to just stop by and have a look. Pretty soon, everyone will know your name.