Hullar's Restaurant (photo by Lauren Young)
By Lauren Young
Fayetteville landmark Hullar’s Restaurant, in operation for over 100 years, is closing its doors on Jan. 27.
The family-style restaurant bar, located on 411 E. Genesee Street, made the decision to end operations last week.
“It’s very sad,” said owner Nanette Hullar. “We don’t want to close, but it’s time.”
One of the oldest restaurants in Fayetteville and operating since 1911, the business has been open for nearly 107 years. Originally known as the Wands House in the early 19th century, Jacob Hullar bought the establishment in 1908 and reopened it as Hullar’s Restaurant. Since then, Nanette has become the fourth generation of her family to own the restaurant.
Working at the restaurant since age 15 and serving for nearly 21 years, Nanette said it has been hard to come to terms with the restaurant closing, as it has essentially become her life.
Since news broke that the restaurant was closing, business has been booming more than usual. “Our phone has been ringing off the hook,” she said. Already at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 26, tables were quickly filling for lunch and every table in Hullar’s Coffee Shop, which will remain open, is occupied. Customer after customer has been asking about their decision to close, and it certainly wasn’t an easy one.
“We just decided that it was time,” Hullar said. The family discussed the restaurant’s fate months prior to making the decision last week — and it’s been a long discussion.
After failing to find help from nieces and nephews interested in running the business, Nanette decided the Hullar’s Restaurant legacy had run its course. New York State’s rising minimum wage was a main factor in the business’s financial situation, growing from $5 an hour to $7.50 in a course of three years, she said. The result has diminished their staff size from 42 to six.
“It’s very sad to see,” Nanette said. “I read about a different small business closing almost every week and it just makes my heart break. We knew from the beginning that was going to affect us, and it truly saddens us to see this place close.”
After Nanette’s mother Maria, who runs the coffee shop next door, suffered a heart attack months prior, Nanette said it was only a matter of time. “I told her, ‘Mom, you’re going to have a heart attack if you keep working yourself like this.’ Then she has a heart attack,” she said. While Maria will remain working in the coffee shop, she plans on working less than the regular seven days a week she currently works. “It’s absolutely her pride and joy,” said Nanette.
Nanette said that while Bull & Beer Roadhouse has approached them about operating in the location, Hullar’s remains undecided on the fate of their space. “It’s still all up in the air,” said Hullar. “We’ve been approached by other places but haven’t made any decisions as of now.”
Nanette is currently considering opening a small, seasonal restaurant by the water in the future, noting seafood, namely salmon, could serve as a specialty on the menu — which makes sense, considering Jake Hullar III created Spring Ponds Fishery, a pay-to-fish business off Highbridge Road in Fayetteville. Now run by Nanette’s sister Susan, who is a skilled angler, the fishery occasionally provided fresh trout for the Hullar’s menu.
Nanette said thanks the community for its continued support over the years and the impact it made on the business’s name. “I’ll miss our employees and customers the most,” said Nanette. “We’re going to definitely miss the hustle and bustle of the place, and the wonderful customers that have been so good to us over the years. I mean, we survived prohibition, which is amazing.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.