Faithful fret as Nathan's Famous in Yonkers to close for renovations
Ken Jacobs will meet up with a group of his old classmates at Nathan's in Yonkers this Saturday for one last hot dog and order of fries before the landmark restaurant closes its doors on Nov. 25 after more than 47 years in business.
Jacobs, 55, has a special connection to the Central Avenue restaurant, which is being torn down and replaced as part of a new plaza. His father was a counter worker at the former Adventure's Inn restaurant, which predated Nathan's on the property. The father went on the become a general manager of Nathan's in the mid-1970s. Jacobs worked there himself as a teenager.
"My family's history is intertwined with that building," said Jacobs, who now lives in New Jersey.
Nathan's president, Wayne Norbitz, said he knows Nathan's in Yonkers will be missed, but he promised customers that they would be able to get the same offerings at the new restaurant, which is expected to be open by late 2013.
"In a way we feel bad because it's an iconic building and has been such a tradition in Westchester," he told Newsday on Thursday. "On the other hand, opening a smaller Nathan's with the same menu is a good opportunity."
The renovations will take about a year, Norbtiz said, and the new restaurant will be about 3,500 square feet in size, roughly a third of its current size. He said the existing restaurant, which opened in 1965, is simply too big.
"That restaurant is probably the size of four McDonald's," Norbitz said. "They don't build them like that anymore."
The owner of the plaza where the restaurant is located, New Rochelle-based Amusement Consultants, is completely rebuilding the complex of stores there, adding new retail tenants and expanding the existing video arcade. A CVS pharmacy will serve as the anchor for the new plaza.
A representative for Amusement Consultants couldn't be reached for comment.
Nathan's, which started as a nickel hot dog stand in Coney Island in 1916, now has hundreds of franchises and five company-owned restaurants throughout the country. Its franks are sold in more than 10,000 locations in 50 states.
Outside of Yonkers, the closest Nathan's stands are the Galleria Mall and The Westchester mall in White Plains.
Donna Bauer, 56, of Yonkers, remembers hanging out at the Nathan's restaurant with her friends after high school, munching on hot dogs and fries and playing pinball at the arcade. She said the restaurant will be missed.
"We couldn't get to Coney Island so we went there," she said. "It was the only place that had an arcade."
Bauer is upset that the old restaurant is being torn down after all these years, but she's thankful for the memories.
"It was an institution, but things change," she said. "There's nothing we can do."
Bauer, Jacobs and some of their former classmates have organized the last get-together at the landmark restaurant on Saturday and have created a Facebook page -- http://www.facebook.com/events/166811943462368/ -- where friends and fans of the eatery can post their photos and remembrances. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 110 people had signed up for the event.
A few weeks ago, after hearing about the restaurant being torn down, Jacobs talked to the property owners about getting the Adventure's Inn logo mosaic from the tile floor of the restaurant before they send in the bulldozers.
"I was told it weighed a couple of tons and they'd need jackhammers to get it out," he said.
Jacobs, a communications consultant, will be joined Saturday by his seventh-grade teacher from Walt Whitman Junior High School, Luise Bethencourt, whose students used to skip school to eat at Nathan's. She inspired him to organize the reunion.
"I'm sure I'll see a lot of familiar faces," he said. "A lot of history."