Ross Club expects better year with new leadership

The Ross Club has been a Williamsport institution since 1890, and officials of the private club are hoping it remains part of the city for another 123 years.

Bob Shangraw, Ross Club president, said changes are afoot at the downtown organization, following a year when it appeared the club might have to close its doors.

“In September it was thought we needed to borrow $50,000 to keep operating,” he explained.

Many members simply were not utilizing the club’s services, which includes a bar and restaurant.

With some reorganization, including the insertion of an interim board of directors, things began to turn around at West Fourth and Williams streets, however.

In the last three months of 2012, the club showed a profit.

Shangraw, a former broker with Merrill Lynch and a Ross Club member for some 40 years, conceded the club has long maintained a membership of older people.

Younger people simply haven’t been represented in big numbers.

In part to boost its numbers for that age group, the club has introduced a Tavern Membership, Shangraw said.

“This will be the first year of it,” he said. “They (members) will have access only to the tavern and be able to order from the bar.”

Regular members, he added, can use all facilities in the building.

A strategic move involved forming a limited liability corporation that will purchase the building and allow the club to then lease it.

“It will annually save us $28,000,” Shangraw explained. “With these changes we are making we are quite optimistic about the Ross Club.”

Most recently, the club hired Anita Bair to serve as club manager

With management experience including employment at the former Bonanza Restaurant and the Bullfrog, Bair said she is excited about helping the Ross Club enjoy a bright future.

“I think we can turn it around for the new year,” she said. “We are promoting specials. We are keeping in touch with members. It’s a beautiful establishment. I hope to get it back on track.”

Shangraw said many people perceive the Ross Club as an establishment closed to non-members.

But many organizations have long used space in the building for meetings and other events.

He hopes to grow the club’s membership which has remained steady at about 150 members.

A year membership is $795.

“That’s probably lower than any similar club in the state,” Shangraw said.