Gullifty's restaurant in Squirrel Hill is closing

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There will be no more Killer Kookies in Squirrel Hill. No more towering pieces of 5th Dimension Cake or slices of Chocolate Intemperance.

Gullifty's, a Murray Avenue landmark known for its decadent desserts, is closing today.

"We've done it for 31 years and it just came to the time," said owner Mark Hastie. "The economy hasn't helped anybody, obviously, but we could have continued here as long as we cared to. It was just one of those things -- you have to examine each chance that comes along."

A cross between a diner and a traditional restaurant, Gullifty's has been open since 1982. It was, as is written in green paint across the building, "a unique eatery" -- its expansive menu ranging from deli sandwiches to pizza to fajitas.

The building is scheduled to be sold Friday to The Friendship Circle, a Jewish organization that pairs teen volunteers with special needs children. The Friendship Circle, which has operated in Pittsburgh since 2006, had outgrown its headquarters on Northumberland Avenue. The group currently rents space for many of its programs, which regularly involve as many as 100 participants.

"We're really excited about the opportunity," said Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, the group's executive director, of moving to the 6,000-square-foot space. "So much of what our organization does is that it exposes the community to kids with special needs and brings kids with special needs into the community. A location like that will do wonders for our organization."

Currently, the organization works with more than 125 kids with special needs and more than 200 teen volunteers. It hosts activities such as bowling and gymnastics clubs, as well as larger events where students cook together for hours, or smaller events such as home visits. There are about 75 Friendship Circle organizations nationally, with Pittsburgh hosting one of the larger chapters.

The sale of Gullifty's is "bittersweet," said Herky Pollock, the real estate broker who represented The Friendship Circle and worked as a busboy at Gullifty's in high school. "There's certainly a lot of warm feelings a 31-year-old restaurant has brought to the neighborhood," he said. "To have it replaced with a humanitarian organization is a fulfilling experience."

In its three decades, Gullifty's has hosted countless team dinners, jazz concerts, dates and Steelers games on its big screen. Gullifty's was a snapshot of Pittsburgh -- and a particular restaurant style -- in local history. Its large menu predated those at places like T.G.I. Fridays and Houlihan's. It drew a parade of regulars from college students to families to the elderly. Fred Rogers and his family were frequent customers.

Mr. Hastie bought the restaurant in 1989 from its original owner, who had owned a pizza shop, a deli and an Italian sit-down restaurant in State College and wanted to combine the concepts under one roof. It was founded as a regional chain, with locations in places such as Altoona, Philadelphia and Harrisburg in addition to Squirrel Hill and Whitehall.

The Philadelphia and Harrisburg locations remain open, said Mr. Hastie, who wanted to express his thanks to the loyal customers and employees he's had throughout the years.

Mr. Hastie, who ran Gullifty's with his brother Matt Hastie, also operates four eateries on the Carnegie Mellon University campus.

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Anya Sostek: or 412-263-1308. First Published August 28, 2013 4:15 AM


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