After being a staple on the Burlington City riverfront for 34 years, Cafe' Gallery closed this week.
Sigh. It has long been a popular destination for family celebrations, a savory Sunday brunch, and romantic dinners.
The elegant restaurant, with windows that display the scenic Delaware River, was shuttered suddenly on Tuesday, due to the effects of the recession and dwindling customers.
"My head is spinning right now - it's such a shock to me," said Tom Edgar, an owner who partnered with Jim and Barbara Fisher. "We put seven days and seven nights into this for 34 years," he said.
Edgar and Jim Fisher met in the '70s when they were teachers in Willingboro. They left to open a new restaurant in their hometown, purchasing Tony's Bar on High Street in the historic downtown. At one time, the bar had been a general store, Allison's Cash & Carry, Edgar said.
Soon, the partners built a glass-enclosed addition, facing the river; created a veranda for alfesco dining, and installed a carved fountain.
In the end, a deadline to meet a financial obligation forced their hand, Edgar said. The building is now listed for sale for $999,999.
Edgar said they weren't quite ready to give up the business and are devastated, even though they are of retirement age.
Cafe' Gallery, which served French and American cuisine, once drew hour-long lines that had snaked around the building when it served its fine Sunday morning breakfast buffets. I frequented the buffet on several special occasions, being seated at a long table upstairs surrounded by original artwork that decorated the walls until they were sold.
A few months ago, I went for lunch, and the cafe was unusually quiet. I should have seen the signs but the food was still excellent and the waiters were at their best. I have fond memories of that day.
Cafe' Gallery's closing is yet another casualty of the economy. The two-story restaurant, which had a capacity for 130 diners, employed 20 people.
But there are also signs a recovery is at hand. Four restaurants are planned for the city's business district in the coming months, according to Mayor Jim Fazzone.
Still, many are mourning because Cafe' Gallery will not be a gem among them. Fazzone said it was like "an upscale Cheers" where everyone congregated.
"People really loved it here," Edgar said. They would come for family gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries, funerals and reunions. We've been receiving a lot of calls of condolences."