Center Square Grill a Central Hangout in East Longmeadow

MassLive, August 25, 2016, by Sean Teehan

When Bill Collins and Mike Sakey opened Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow about two and a half years ago, they wanted to create a local go-to hangout spot.

“We have a fantastic following,” Collins said Monday afternoon as customers lingered at the restaurant’s bar, tables and outside patio at 2 p.m.

Indeed, tables at Center Square Grill are typically packed with a mix of locals and customers from surrounding communities each night of the week.

A large driving mantra at the creative American cuisine eatery is “all will be well if the tables are full,” Collins said. A packed restaurant generates atmosphere while keeping the staff happy with the money the crowd draws.

“Nobody wants to hang around at a place where there’s 15 people,” Collins said. “People want to be where the action is.”

Spending nearly all his life involved in the restaurant industry has provided Collins with a good sense of what works and what does not.

Growing up, Collins’ family owned a hotel/restaurant on Long Island, New York. At age 19, he became the youngest general manager at the Applebee’s chain in Western Massachusetts.

In recent years, Collins opened six concept restaurants with Claudio Guerra, founder of the Northampton-based Spoleto Restaurant Group.

“He really taught me the ins and outs of opening a restaurant,” Collins said of his time taking care of leasing, hiring, marketing and a variety of other undertakings while opening restaurants with his mentor.

When Guerra was downsizing some of his operation in 2014, including the Spoleto’s Restaurant at 84 Center Square in East Longmeadow, Collins partnered with Sakey and the two located their new venture there.

Community involvement and integration has been an emphasis at Center Square Grill, Collins said. An effort is made to include menu items from farmers markets and other locally sourced locations. In addition, the two sit on the boards of local organizations, host events and participate in local fundraisers.

As Center Square Grill continues to enjoy heavy patronage, Collins said, the idea of opening a second location seems likely in the future.

“We hope to expand, and bring our chef into the fold,” Collins said.