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Main Street Icon Closes its Doors

Revitalization Plan Not Quick Enough to Help Save Bollinger’s

On the doors of Bollinger’s Family Restaurant in the weeks leading up to its closing on Sunday, Feb. 19 was a sign notice to customers that the owners had decided to close the doors for good. It said, “To our valued customers, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your years of support and patronage. It has meant a great deal to those of us who have had the pleasure and honor to meet and serve you. Unfortunately, due to these difficult economic times, we can no longer afford to remain open. As a result, it is with much sadness and regret that Bollinger’s Family Restaurant will be closing its doors for good on Sunday, Feb. 19.”

As one lifelong customer, Jill (Smith) Chow, a resident of Farmingdale, passed through the doors on Friday, just days before the closing, she could hardly believe the news, and the reality of what this meant.

Chow said she remembers coming to this restaurant when she was in nursery school, more than 40 years ago, when it was Von Lessen’s, the homemade ice cream and candy parlor. She is heartbroken about the news, saying that it’s been a part of three generations of her family, now including her own 19-month old daughter. After receiving her takeout order, she could not wait to get home and call her mother with the news. Chow said her family had no idea that Bollinger’s would not exist after the weekend.

Bollinger’s Family Restaurant, co-owned by Jim Brennan and Joe Tinisi, has been a fixture in the community for decades, and well before, when it was originally known as Von Leesen’s.

Brennan and Tinisi took over the business in October 2010, from Fred Bollinger who retired from the business. Bollinger’s has survived decades, a long way since its original legacy when its doors opened in the 1900s.

“We tried doing a lot of different things, but because we are Main Street, we pay top rent,” said Brennan. “The other businesses on Main Street compete, and look what’s going on; I think it started with Waldbaum’s going out of business.”

Brennan said the restaurant always does well in the spring and summer, but last year’s winter especially took a toll on their business because of the light foot traffic on Main Street and the multiple days that they were unable to even open because of the heavier snowfall.

When asked if he thinks Bollinger’s would have had a chance with the Village administration’s Main Street Revitalization plans, he said, “We just can’t wait that long; it’s just reached a point that it’s very hard, especially with the overhead.”  He said even the cost of food in general has increased significantly, especially dairy.

“[It is] so very sad to see Bollinger’s closing after all these years; this is further proof to me that we need to move forward with our new codes to redevelop our downtown to not only bring a new vibrancy and people but to allow landowners an opportunity to share the unsustainable tax burden with retailers and tenants,” said Farmingdale Mayor George Starkie. “We will then see rents that are affordable for all our merchants so they don’t suffer the fate of Bollinger’s.”

Brennan hopes that, with all of the existing equipment and that the restaurant is up to code, someone will recognize its turnkey value and re-open it under new ownership. The building is owned by Elias Properties.