The Year End – A Time To Reflect
Posted on: December 27, 2013
It’s that reflective time of year, and Mod B has been pondering the state of Retro Roadmap worthy places, so pardon me if I ramble.
Dang, people – it’s starting to look like the Obituary section around here. 🙁
- Vesuvio Restaurant Belmar, NJ 1937-2013
- Hilltop Steak House, Saugus, MA 1961-2013
- Christo’s Restaurant, Brockton, MA 1964-2013
- Emmaus Bowling Alley, Emmaus, PA closed 2013
- Shawmut Diner New Bedford, MA to close 2014
- The list goes on, but I can’t…too depressing!
2013 has been a tough year for many of the cool vintage spots we love so much. Some places we didn’t even get a chance to write up and a number of entries on the map closed for good. Which isn’t good. But in a way it’s understandable, even though it’s sad.
The “sweet spot” for places that mean so much to many of us are now in the 50+ year old range. That means that if the business is still being run by the original owner, that owner is most likely 70 to 80 years old. These folks have worked hard – sometimes 7 days a week, long hours, year in and year out, and maybe they’re tired. They want to retire and enjoy some time off. Who can blame them? No one nowadays stays at a job for that long – everyone is moving up, or over. No one stays, like they did in the olden days. (Or if they do, it’s an exception to the rule.)
That’s one of the reasons why these places are so special- they’ve managed to stick around for so long. But once they’re gone, like old-growth forests cut down and replanted with saplings, they won’t be replaced by businesses that expect to be around 50+ years from now.
To me these Retro Roadmap worthy places are like the old relatives and neighbors we all grow accustomed to having around. They’ve been around as long as we have – and longer. We may even take them for granted, thinking that they’ve been here for so long that they’ll always be there.
But as we find out with the folks around us – nothing lasts forever, and suddenly they’re just gone. And that’s when we realize what we’re missing.
Did we spend time with them when they were still around? Do we wish in hindsight we had visited them more? Maybe even just to tell them how much they meant to us (before we didn’t have the chance to?) Is all we can do now is wish they were here again?
Do we have to be told flat-out that a business is dying, before we realize how important it is to our lives, and make an effort to let them know? We all know none of us are going to be around forever. What are we going to do with that knowledge?
I was in Christo’s restaurant in Brockton Massachusetts a few weeks ago. They had opened in 1964 and we had visited there off and on since my sister moved to the area. When I learned by chance that they were closing for good at the end of the year, we made it a priority to go have one last meal. As did everyone else who realized that they were closing. The place was packed and the wait was long when we arrived.
When I mentioned the crowds to the nice gal behind the hostess station she said truthfully, “If these folks had come in like this earlier we would never have had to close.”
We all went to pay our last respects, but how many people there realized that they played a small part in the demise of the place they loved that held so many fond memories, because they took it for granted, thinking that it would always be there?
A similar story played out at the Hilltop Steak House just up the road in Saugus, where people who hadn’t visited there in ages flocked there for one last visit to a place that will never be again. And I bet it will be replayed in many more cities and towns this year.
“Oh, but the food /service wasn’t as good as it used to be” people have said. I’m not going to argue – it’s quite possibly true. But perhaps one of the reasons that happened was because corners were cut in order to not close up completely? Or maybe when we as the public stopped caring about the place, they stopped caring? I know there are no easy answers, and each circumstance is different.
I have been accused of putting on the rose colored glasses and overlooking less than stellar meals, grimy surroundings and apathetic service, in order to pay homage to what a place used to be like in it’s heyday. Trust me, I am aware of all of that.
What I do realize however, is that same type of boring meal and service can happen anywhere – even at a generic chain restaurant (unless it’s one of those ones that insists on “ultra-perky” servers, which I avoid like the plague anyways.) But I’d rather have my money go to a local owner with history than a big conglomerate, and if the place is carrying on a tradition, all the more for it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is – like the people in your life – tell the places that you like that you appreciate them WHILE THEY’RE STILL HERE.
I know that the times, they are a-changin. It’s a different world than it was even 10 years ago, nevermind 50+.
For those of you who have kids (or grandkids, nieces/nephews, young neighbors), think of the kind of world you want them to grow up in. Do you want them to only know about the mall, the food court, the big box store, the megaplex?
Or do you want them to get more of a sense of what life used to be like, when individuals, not corporations, ran the businesses we went to. And how life can be, when you have a connection to where your money goes when it is spent.
Make the effort to spend some time with the people who you will miss when they’re gone, and the places you’ll lament the passing of. Your purchases might not keep the businesses open forever, but you can help them stick around for a while longer and make their waning years more pleasant.
With all this lamenting, and reminders of the sad inevitabilities of life you’d think that I’d be tempted to throw in the towel.
But it’s just at a point like this when I realize it’s more important than ever to get folks out to the cool vintage places that remain and have some retro fun, and I’ll do my best to do just that in 2014 and beyond.