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Without Community Support, Rony's Rock Burger Struggles to Survive

Rony Alvarado can't figure out why Glen Rock residents haven't packed his burger joint. If it business stays like this, he says he won't make it through 2012.

Rony Alvarado stacks several meals on his arms and forearms, waltzes past the rock memorabilia draped from the walls and places the grass-fed burgers, cut fries and thick shakes on the table. The kids, smiling and shouting, quickly make a request – "Can we put on Spongebob?" they chirp.

"Oh you got it, sure," Alvarado laughs, turning on Nick Jr. "I love kids," he says, grinning. "Family, that's important, man; it matters so much."

Though he's all smiles with customers – even telling those without cash their credit is good with him – Rony (pronounced "Ronnie") and his restaurant, Rony's Rock Burger, are hurting.

Alvarado took the restaurant over in March of 2011 from former owner Jeff Louis, transforming the small "man vs. food"-styled burger joint to a rock-'n-roll themed hangout.

While items like the Ted Nugent (chicken nuggets), Yolk-o (burger with a fried egg) and Sweet Home Alabama (grilled cheese sandwich) have brought some groupies and a heaping of teens looking for a place to gather, it just isn't enough to make ends meet.

The $3,300 he pays a month on rent and taxes looks like a mountain. The last three others who failed in the same location can attest to those struggles, he remarks. Alvarado is behind on payments and the landlord won't budge on lowering the rent.

He tried to open his burger joint over the summer, hucking his burgers at the Glen Rock Municipal Pool in June. He "lost his shirt" and quickly shut down again before reopening for fall.

"If it keeps going like this, I don't think I'll make it to the end of the year," Alvarado says somberly.

It's a bewildering situation for Rony, who previously worked as a chef across the street at RoCCa.

"I don't understand why I'm not getting the community support," he says. "Everybody that comes here is so satisfied. I never got a complaint from anybody, ever. This is the best burger in the area. So I know it's not that they don't like the food. I just think that people in town don't support enough businesses right here...I get some people in town coming but it's just not enough." 

Alvarado says he believes the borough citizens are largely aware of his burger spot, located at 192 Rock Road.

He also acknowledges that some places in town – pointing to John's Boy Pizza – have a regular, steady stream of fiercely local residents packing the tables, which arguably makes it harder to set a toe hold in the market.

"Owning a restaurant has been a dream," he says. "And what better place to have it than in Glen Rock? This is a great town. I figured if I presented a great product at a moderate price, people would love it. It just hasn't panned out yet."

Asked if he thought it could be a marketing problem, Alvarado wasn't sure.

It's something of a moot point – you need money to spend money on advertising, he notes. And the til's low, with available funds largely heading to the landlord, distributors and the energy company.

Alvarado says he's trying all he can to spur some interest in his rock-themed burger joint. He's taking a risk by opening up again on Sundays by offering specials on wings, free fries on Thursdays and $2 sliders if the customer orders 10 or more, he says.

"Whatever it takes; I'll come to your house and cook," he told Patch. "Whatever I need to do. My customers are amazing, all I need are more of them from here. We're fighting, we're trying to make it. That's all I can do."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

News Man September 28, 2012 at 02:52 PM
This type of business should have been researched more carefully. Paying a $3,300 a month rental is a big nut in the first place. A business consultant's guidance would have been more helpful. Are there any in our area that could have helped?
RdgwdGRock September 28, 2012 at 03:39 PM
there are plenty of local places in the area to get burgers (all claiming to have the best), plus McD's, etc. Just because Rony has some rock'n'roll stuff is just window dreassing. what has to sell is the right food at the right price. personally, I like to a have a beer with my burger. hence, I go to Mac Murphy's or The Office. I wish Rony all the best, but a $3k monthly nut equates to alot of sold food before a profit for himself.
TheBlueCollarFoodie September 28, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Local Foodie's Unite! Let's keep this burger joint alive. I will be hitting this place up this week and writing a review so my followers can Read All About It!
Cara C. September 28, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Rock Burger has very good food, I agree that he should add some healthy options. I have not been impressed with burgers in Glen Rock and Ridgewood, so with some smart marketing and a few tweaks, I don't see why he can't improve things.
JAFO September 28, 2012 at 05:36 PM
RdgwdGRock hit the nail on the head.
Mark Ruckhaus September 28, 2012 at 06:45 PM
"Let's keep this burger joint alive." Why? If he has quality food at commensurate prices, he'll stay alive all on his own and there won't be any need to KEEP him alive. Re-read what Melvin Freedenberg and RdgwdGRock wrote here as they both make a lot of sense.
Mikka H September 28, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I enjoyed reading Mr. Freedenberg's comment.....very clear thinking and obviously was/ is a very good businessman.....Cheers.
Brian September 28, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Add to the McDonalds list every diner in the area which all serve good burgers and have parking. I pick up John's Boy once a week and have never looked in Rock Burger and thought, wow I want to try that. It is small, loud and looks like good greasy burgers. I am rarely looking for wings without a beer and my wife isnt looking for a greasy burger for dinner. The new Burger/Lobster Roll place in Ridgewood is the same model but much more adult with local chicken, fried clams, etc. I tried that (not great) but I tried it because it offered more. My suggestion to Rock Burger is to look at a place like Shake Shack. One of the things that makes Shake Shack work is that it is healthier beef and peanut oil fries. That marketing strategy works. All of a sudden you have moms stopping in for a "healthier" burger or even picking up dinner because they believe they are giving their kids a better option. Now organic beef is expensive. So maybe you offer a more expensive grass fed option in addition to the regular menu. I like to see local businesses succeed but it will never be by complaining. the only way to win is to make your product popular.
JAFO September 28, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I love ShakeShack, but they also serve beer which is practically a "must" when having burgers and wings.
Fercho September 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Ok so he now pays $3300 in rent + all the other utilities and BS. And you guys are also advising for the $300,000+ liquor license in Bergen County??? I think if you asked Rony about his BYOB policy he would be all for it (and it would save you/us $$$). There's a reason why a thriving place like Tani is BYOB. If locals actually talked to the guy you would actually know that he uses top ingredients including his beef. Issue #1 is the crazy rent. Issue #2 for me is the normal size hamburger BUN. Just doesn't cut it for the meat. Breaks off easily. His sliders are VERY good (probably because he uses parker style buns). His fries are GREAT. Crispy and thin very much like MD. Issue #3 is the place is so small that there isn't great ventilation in the place. Suggestion for Rony, #1 find cheaper rent. #2 GR needs some Teenage hangouts. Have some local kid bands perform, poetry night, comedy night, film night etc., that is hosted and meant for teenage kids. Nothing like that anywhere close to here... #3 Have some healthy alternatives (some grilled chicken breasts) #4 have some alternatives that still use your main ingredients --chili, spaghetti & meatballs, Killer Nachos. #5 DELIVER/Advertise DELIVERY... I've never received a Rock burger menu. #6 With all the corporate office parks/doctor offices, etc in the area, go after that market. And while I like a good pint at the GR Inn, Rony's ingredients are hands down better and taste like it. Who else in GR offers a better burger?
Quantanya Richardson September 29, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Provincial town expecting chi-chi places to dine. GR needs to get over itself...snooty and clueless.
RdgwdGRock September 29, 2012 at 03:52 AM
no one is saying that he should obtain a liquor license. the point is that there are plenty of options for a burger, esp if one wants a burger and a beer.
TSDK September 29, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Can always count on the comments section to try to kick a guy while he's down. Instead, why not meet Rony & his wife, try a burger & if you have comments/suggestions, TALK to him. Any good small business owner welcomes customer feedback. This isn't the place for a business lesson or bash session. All I know is that I have family friends who are foodies that visit every Thursday from 30 min away that get Rony's food every single week. They LOVE Rony's. I'm sure they could get burgers in their own town but they don't. We could have a great, bustling, shopping downtown if people weren't so quick to complain & nitpick about everything, virtually anonymous in comments sections. The only thing I can & will do is to keep buying local and promote our local shops- get amazing cupcakes from Pam at A la Cupcakes- where you can find me 5x a week, buying fruit for my son's class at Kilroy's, ordering burgers from Rony's on Thursday's, keys made at Glen Rock hardware, people watching at the Glen Rock Inn & buying trendy accessories at Hidden Treasure Box. My husband will continue to get daily hot chocolate from Gianella's, tailoring done by Lee at Glen Rock Alterations & enjoying a smoothie with our son at Smoothie King. Why not make it your mission to go into every business in town, check it out & meet the owners of these small, family run businesses. Maybe then, you might find that not-so-hidden gem you find you can't live without.
TSDK September 29, 2012 at 04:28 AM
And I disagree that there is no emotional attachment to food & businesses. I didn't know Pam from A la Cupcakes from a hole in the wall. In fact, I wrote a mediocre blog blurb about her place after going in once. One day her husband was outside handing out samples when I ran by on my way somewhere else. He invited me to come in to re-taste their red velvet cake. I went in, got to talking to them, got a better understanding of what they do, tasted some stuff & was totally blown away. Now I'm probably their most vocal supporter and I would pretty much lay down on the tracks if they were to go out of business. I'd say I'm highly emotionally attached. I'm fairly certain people can feel that way about burgers, their dry cleaner & their pizza place. When I call for Bob's order on Thursdays they know its for him, they make sure there's no salt on the fries because he can't have salt, without me even reminding them. They chit-chat with Rony & his wife when they pick up their food. You can't get that at MickeyD's. I'm the kind of person that loves to go where everyone knows your name, your "usual" & acts interested in your life beyond what you're spending. The only places you can get that are mom & pop stores. The only ways mom & pop stores can survive are with support, constructive feedback, and a little emotional attachment.
JAFO September 29, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Great post Fercho! So did any first-timers go to Rony's last night?
thetentman September 29, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Nice commment. How true. Ridgewood too. Y'all think the sun shines out your butts. Puhleeze.
thetentman September 29, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I went to Rony's again last night spurred by the patch article. Bacon cheddar burger with Rock sauce. It was VERY good. The fries were great but there were too many of them. I would have been happy with a quarter of what he gave me. They were not soggy and I would bet the lady with the soggy fries got them to go and kept the bag closed. Perfect way to ruin fries. I will return. And I am beginning to love ECB.
John Hahn September 29, 2012 at 04:34 PM
1. There can not be 2 bars on the same street in Glen Rock. That is why there is no other bar on Rock Road. 2. It is the little things. I just called the number listed on google and the FB page and elsewhere. It says it is a non-working #. I wanted to order but no way to get in touch.
TSDK September 29, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Seriously? You don't need to order. You can just go there. It takes them 5-10 min to make an order. But the number is 201-857-4686. It was working thursday.
Elizabeth Cox September 30, 2012 at 01:10 AM
please leave out the peanut oil- you will lose all the nut allergy kids!
Elizabeth Cox September 30, 2012 at 01:15 AM
if you only had 1/2 of a clue- snooty & clueless. i swear.
USAUSA September 30, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Geez not to get off the subject but no wonder the GR Inn's food has gone downhill along with everything else in that place, they have a monopoly! Who did they screw to get that ordinance passed? I will try Rock Burger again but Margaret was not wrong about service the times I went.
Michael September 30, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Rony should check out East Coast Burger in Ridgewood. They are a local version of Smashburger/Bucu and are doing killer business. Of course, as a Bolger business, they do not have the same rent concerns but the huge amount of traffic I see there nightly is saying something. We ate there, burgers are good but ff you go...sweet potato fries. Mmmmmm.
Marc D September 30, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Sorry John but there are two bars on Rock Rd within little more then a block. The GR Inn at Rock & Glen and the Greek Taverna by the Main Line on Rock. Both have full bar service and dining.
GR mama October 01, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Fercho makes some great points. To add on -- the place is a greasy spoon. it's a great place for an afterhours drunken college crowd (which we don't have in Glen Rock) or for teenagers. I'm a 40-year-old mom -- call me a snob, but my days of eating in a place like this are long gone. I wish Rony luck, but I think that if he wants to appeal to families, he has to make the place a bit more family-oriented (and hint: Sponge Bob is not the answer. You only have to walk down to Francesca's to see what I mean).
rock October 02, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Coming from a glen rock high schooler there is no place in town that I would rather not eat at. I've ordered the same thing two or three times and the price has always been different. It had nothing to do with the cost of goods it was within a 2 week span. The burgers just dont compare to the likes of five guys, smash burger shake shack, or anything else. I'd much rather drive over to paramus or hackensack, and spend around $10 for either five guys or smashburger. Better environment and a better burger. Also, I can make the same quality fries in my oven at home from a frozen pack.
GlenRocking October 03, 2012 at 05:01 PM
One thing that keeps me from this place... NO CREDIT CARDS accepted...we are not a cash and carry society anymore. I have been in Rony's and seen people walk out...why because they don't take credit cards. Also a little advertising in the Gazette would be good...Maybe having some coupons printed in there for us townies. Also there are so many parents that take their kids out to lunch everyday and Subway, Jonn Boy's, Francesca's are all busy at lunch time. Time is important for moms who need to get their kid back to school within the 20 (or so) min window they have. You also have to be faster. I've waited over 1/2 an hour for 2 cheeseburgers once, nothing fancy just 2 Cheeseburgers and 1 order of fries..... There was no one else in the store....just me to bring home, I had to sit there and watch sports or something....Personally I think if you accepted credit card(s) and made things go a little bit faster behind the grill get some help your business would flourish, Stand outside cut your sliders into fours and have the town people sample...If more people tasted his food i think they would order it, but not without a CC, anytime I order anything for takeout, I always use a CC it's just easier for me and think a lot of other people too. I hope you do well, I'd hate to see you close down, but take some these comments seriously, work ideas into your business plan, then I can see you being a staple here in GR for a loooong time.
JJL January 26, 2013 at 02:16 AM
What a joke people are now a days, right here is what is the matter with America great. Here is a hard working family guy that produces a good product at a great price again maybe not for everybody but should be able to accomplish his dreams and people rather go support corporate America, long live small business or Mom and Pop's that made America Great.
think about March 06, 2013 at 01:56 AM
I live in Glen Rock and just tried to order delivery from Rony. I searched the web for their website and found that they only had a Facebook page. It did have a menu and said that they deliver for lunch and dinner. When I called to place my order (just for me) he said that I didn't meet the delivery minimum. There is nothing on his "website" about a minimum delivery amount. When I stated that there is no mention of the minimum on his Facebook menu he said that I needed to order at least $20 and then asked if I still wanted the order I said yes but I only wanted the food I previously told.him that I wanted to order and he said he wouldn't deliver unless I ordered $20 worth of food. I live literally three minutes from this place and if I didn't have sleeping kids I probably would have picked up the order. If he would have stated on his menu the delivery minimum I wouldn't have a problem but stating you deliver without stating you have a minimum is deceiving. Almost like a bait and switch. Sorry but I won't ever be a customer of your establishment Rony. Deception will get you nothing but a going out of business sign on your door. GOOD LUCK with that!
thetentman March 07, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Wow he did not serve an 'A'Hole 'D'Bag, I'm going back!

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