PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — After 65 years, it’s closing time for an iconic family eatery in New Jersey.
Customers lined up outside the Fireplace Restaurant in Paramus for one last meal Friday, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported.READ MORE: Vaccine Mandate For NYC Teachers, Department Of Education Workers Put On Hold By Federal Judge
It’s hard to measure how much a restaurant means to its customers, but the line outside the Fireplace said a lot.
“I’ve been here since I’m young. I can’t remember. I’m so old, I can’t remember when I started here,” said 96-year-old Frannie Matchko.
People braved the wait for hours along Route 17 in Bergen County to order one last burger, snap a final picture and say goodbye to a place that created countless memories.
Scott Kearney, a Westwood resident, said his memories amount to about 14,000 cheeseburgers.
“I’ve been coming here since ’76. That’s 45 years. An average of three times a week, two double cheeseburgers each time. That’s six double cheeseburgers a week,” Kearney said.
“I’ve loved this place since I was a little kid. It’s sad to lose it,” said John Ferrari from Fair Lawn.READ MORE: Man Wanted For Allegedly Touching Woman Inappropriately On Subway
Former FBI agent Frank Reilly opened the Fireplace in 1956. His photo, along with a picture of the restaurant on opening day, adorn the restaurant’s wall.
Reilly’s son Patrick said the eatery tried to adjust to the hardship of the coronavirus pandemic, but it proved to be too much.
“It’s really, you know, a math problem. What it comes down to is not enough money is coming in,” Patrick Reilly said.
Not only has the Fireplace been the place to eat, it’s been the place to work. Frank Wierzbicki started as a busboy 50 years ago and is retiring as the general manager.
“It was worth it and I enjoyed every minute,” Wierzbicki said. “The last year and a half, not so enjoyable. But we got through as far as we could make it.”
“I just love the place. It’s the most iconic place for burgers and hot dogs, roast beef sandwiches in northern New Jersey,” Kearney said. “It’s like the end of a legend. Very sad day but I wanted to make sure that I got here.”
The future of this valuable, heavily trafficked property is still up in the air. The owner said reopening the restaurant here is not a possibility, but it may have a future at another location.MORE NEWS: Police: 9-Year-Old Punched, Robbed On Staten Island
CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report.