Just inside The Original Fireside Caterers, a deli and takeout spot in East Northport, a giant wooden bear stands near the door, the word "welcome" carved into its side and a flame-covered black mask pulled across its snout.
Sadly, the doors that the bear guards are closed for good. At the end of May, the owners of the 30-year-old business on Jericho Turnpike, George McCallion and Michael Fleming, announced it had closed.
"After 30 years of hard work, the new world caused by the VIRUS has crushed our catering business," read a note in the window (as well as posted online). The note went on to thank customers for years of business and friendship.
The phone line no longer works at Fireside, and a message to the restaurant's social media account was unanswered.
Fireside's menu was old-school, with sandwiches running to BLTs, roast beef and liverwurst. The Italian hero was named "Mussolini's Revenge," the steam table had meatballs, sausage and peppers and mac and cheese, and the kitchen also cooked up rotisserie chicken, fried chicken and pork ribs. The list of catering packages was almost a novella and its party heroes made innumerable appearances at graduations and other shindigs.
Fireside opened in November 1989, and the business survived the opening of a Panera Bread in the same plaza several years ago. It becomes one of several casualties during this cruel spring in the food industry, with restaurants such as Bravo Nader in Huntington and Perennial in Garden City also announcing they will not reopen.
When the East Northport Chamber of Commerce posted the news of Fireside's closure, two weeks ago, dozens of comments ensued. "So sad!" read more than a few. Scores of comments appeared wherever else the news was posted, from Facebook to Nextdoor.
Though another Original Fireside remains in Plainview, an employee there said it had no relation to the East Northport location.