MILL HAM - After 62 years of serving its famous pot pies and roast turkey dinners, the Blue Chimney Restaurant is no more.
Co-owners Carl and Brenda Shaffer are holding a liquidation sale of nearly everything in the famous eatery at 3076 Eagle Valley Road, Mill Hall after closing up shop on April 20. It will likely turn into a chiropractic office, Brenda said.
Brenda and Carl have owned the restaurant for the past 11 years,, but the long hours and numerous government mandates - forced the closure, Brenda said.
New government regulations - including changing expensive equipment every few years - have made it very hard for small businesses to stay afloat, she said.
"It breaks my heart for the regular customers," she said. "Some of the customers have been coming in for three or four generations. One lady who was in here saw her kids, her grandkids and her great-grandkids in here. This is a big part of their lives and it's the hardest part of getting out.
"It was bitter-sweet for me," Brenda continued. "It's upsetting to know I'm the one who took their restaurant away. It is never going to be a restaurant again. I'm sorry I couldn't sell it as a restaurant for the community."
Brenda said long-time customers Glenn and Niki Neff were the last customers of the famous restaurant.
"There were a lot of long-time customers who came in our final day," Brenda said. "They sent a lot of them to the kitchen to say goodbye to me... all day long.
"At 2 p.m., I asked Glenn one last time, and he shut off the lights," she continued, tears streaking down her cheeks.
"When you're in business for yourself, it's all very stressful and taxing," she said, noting she had been working 12-plus hours, seven days a week for several years. "It's been very stressful."
The restaurant, she said, was first put into operation by former local dentist Dr. Klevansky who sold it to the Duck family. Then their daughter and son-in-law Don and Dee Falcone ran it. The Shaffers purchased the business in June of 2001.
Brenda said she tried to save the business at the end, cutting back the hours from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then from 6 a.m. to noon before permanently shutting the doors on April 20.
"I guess I have to get a job," Brenda said of her life's next adventure.
Obviously, several came to know the Blue Chimney (also referred to the "Blue Flue") as their extended family through the years.
"They are coming to my house... They don't know what to do," Brenda said. "They were like family. They are going to be at a loss for a family-style restaurant that caters to them... They want to go where people know them and take care of them and be friends and family to them."
One such long-time patron is Dave Nyman, who said he has been coming to the restaurant almost every day - sometimes two or three times a day - since 1955.
"The people here are like my family. They treat you like a person instead of a number," he said while walking out of the door with the restaurant's famous cabbage knife, nicknamed "Bertha."
Not only did the closure of the restaurant mean a loss of family and friends for many patrons, it also means the relocation of Brenda's mother, Arlene McCloskey, who lived in an apartment downstairs since the Shaffers bought the business in 2001. She lived there with her husband, James, until he passed away two years ago.
"I'm glad she sold it," Arlene said. "But, I don't want to move."
The restuarant's closing sale continues today and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If there is anything left, Brenda said she may just give it away, or donate it to local charities.