Donna Gloeckner is standing outside Carmody’s Restaurant and Lounge in Franklin Park, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. She has been crying. It’s the day before the North Hills institution will shut its doors after 62 years, and she is having a hard time holding it together.
“I feel like I’m going to a funeral,” Ms. Gloeckner of McCandless said Friday.
She and four high school friends — graduates of the Avalon High School class of ‘56 — are meeting today, just as they have every two weeks for years. It’s the last time they’ll share a corner table at the well-known eatery, famous for its turtle soup. Over the years, they’ve whiled away hours at Carmody's, enjoying the food and each other’s company and the friendships they’ve made with the restaurant’s staff and management.
Joan Carter of Leet, one of the five, said the friends don't know where they’ll hold their get-togethers in the future. “There’s no place like this,” she said. “I feel so bad.”
It’s barely lunch time and, already, the parking lot is nearly full and there’s a 15-minute wait to be seated.
Eileen Mayor of Richland, daughter of the restaurant's founder, Ethel Carmody, owns the business with her sister-in-law, Janet Carmody of Ohio Township, who was married to the late Michael Carmody.
Mrs. Mayor fielded call after call Friday, tearing up as she offered this explanation to callers: “All good things come to an end.”
The restaurant has been a part of her life since childhood when her mom opened the business on March 1, 1952, in what was a former house on Nicholson Road. The restaurant was in “the middle of nowhere,” she recalled. As the North Hills grew, the 1.5-acre property found itself at the hub of a commercial and transportation center, even having to be shifted a bit in 1969 to accommodate the construction of Interstate 79, where it sits a stone’s throw from the Wexford exit.
“This was my mother’s thing. My dad, an [Allegheny] County detective, was an Irishman. She was on one side of the bar and he was on the other,” Mrs. Mayor said with a wry laugh. Her mom continued to work until nine years ago, when she died at age 97, Mrs. Mayor said.
Since the restaurant opened, someone from the family has been involved with its operations on a daily basis: a brother, sister, mom, niece, grandson. Mrs. Mayor, 78, worked at the restaurant part time until 1977, when she went full time, intending to do that for a couple of years. But she continued to work full time, even after her husband, Bob, died four years ago. Now, she’s ready for retirement.
“The building’s old. I’m old. I’ve had a couple of operations over the past couple of years and I’m ready to relax,” she said. Her biggest headache with the business has been keeping the ranks of employees full. Some 50 people work at the restaurant.
“That’s the hardest part. I feel like I can’t keep the place staffed the way I want to, the way I need to to be able to serve the customers the way they should be served. If I can’t do that, then I don’t want to keep it open anymore,” Mrs. Mayor said.
She doesn’t know what will happen to the property. It’s too soon to tell, but she suspects it won’t take long to sell.
The building has an interesting history, starting as a house and then morphing into a grocery store and gasoline station. Four additions have been constructed over time, so that the building now can seat 150 in the upstairs dining room and 100 in the downstairs banquet rooms.
The building closed its doors for the final time Saturday night.
Sharon King of Portersville, a bartender for 18 years, said she and the staff were told Feb. 24 of the shutdown. She said she’s sad beyond description.
“You have a relationship with the other people who work here. You have a relationship with the customers," she said. It’s hard to let all that go, but I think we understand how [the owners] feel.”
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-772-9180.