(6/10) Frank Robey traveled from Baltimore on Monday to have lunch at the Cozy Restaurant and then stop at Catoctin Mountain Trains and Hobbies.
Finding the Cozy closed, Robey ended up eating in Frederick, then going back to the train shop to look for a caboose that smoked and lit up.
"It is a regular thing," Paul Koontz, an employee of the train shop, said of Robeyís visits to Thurmont. "A lot of people do that, especially on Sundays. They stop here first, then eat at the Cozy or vice versa."
The Cozy closed its doors Sunday after serving customers since 1929. Koontz was shocked by the news, he said.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill dined at the Cozy, owner Jerry Freeze said. "We had German delegations, Russian delegations, foreign journalists, TV anchors, a lot of people."
Both the restaurant and motel were used by the U.S. Secret Service and other presidential staff over the years, according to the Cozyís website.
In a telephone interview Monday, Freeze said he was retiring and would sell much of the property, such as the small buildings that house the Villages of the Cozy across the street.
"The motel will stay open, and we may rent or sell the restaurant," said Freeze, 78. "Iím almost 80, and there really isnít anyone left in the family to run the business. I never thought I would want to retire."
The business owes more than $153,000 in federal taxes, according to records at the Frederick County Courthouse, and about $26,000 in state taxes, according to the Maryland Comptrollerís Office.
Kathy Vahle, administrator at the Frederick County liquor board, said Freeze did not renew the liquor license for the Cozy last year.
The business had to cancel planned parties and other events, but Freeze said it was best to just close the restaurant. He had about 60 to 75 employees, most of them part time, depending on the season, he said.
"A lot of my customers were older folks," Freeze said. "Most of the people I know at my age are retired or dead."
The Cozy was the oldest restaurant in Maryland continuously owned by the same family.
"Weíve served about 14 million people over the years," Freeze said.
He isnít sure what will happen with the memorabilia in the Camp David Museum and other items in the restaurant, Freeze said.
"I will keep some of the personal things. Maybe sell some or give to the historical society or the visitors center."
The business and properties are in various trusts and corporations, and it will take time to work everything out before property is sold or rented out, Freeze said.
"I could see the business was down," said Pat Manahan, owner of Mountain Memories, across from the restaurant. "I could see that out my window. There used to be six or eight buses over there sometimes, but it was down."
Over the 16 years she has been in business, restaurant or Cozy Inn motel customers would come over to her craft and boutique shop and look around, Manahan said.
"Iím sure it broke his heart to close," she said of Freeze.
Mike Hobbs, a member of the family that runs Hobbs Hardware in Thurmont, said the closing is a double-edged sword.
"It brought us business from people who came to the Cozy, and the Cozy was a customer of ours," Hobbs said. "They needed maintenance and would buy what they needed from us. Weíve dealt with the Cozy for 60 years."
Hobbs said he hated to see any local business close and buildings become empty in the town.
"I really canít see anything positive out of it," Hobbs said of the closing.
Mayor John Kinnaird said the Cozy was synonymous with Thurmont.
"I could meet someone in California and say I was from Thurmont, and they would immediately know the Cozy," Kinnaird said Monday from a Maryland Municipal League meeting in Ocean City.
Town Commissioner Martin Burns called the Cozyís closing a huge loss.
"The restaurant hosted so many events. It is a sad day," Burns said.
The Lions Club met every other Wednesday at the Cozy for decades, and the town staff had their annual Christmas party there, he said.
Town officials had talked with Freeze a year ago and were told everything was fine, he said.
John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County, noted the restaurantís longtime importance for tourism.
"Cozy has been a Frederick County landmark for 85 years, and it was the destination that brought many families to visit Frederick County from around the region," Fieseler wrote in an email. "Jerry Freeze and his family have been great supporters of tourism in Frederick County dating back to the establishment of the Catoctin Mountains Tourist Council, which predates the 1976 founding of the
Tourism Council of Frederick County. The restaurant was also a favorite stop for many motorcoach tours over the decades."
The development of the Cozyís Camp David Museum gave the tourism office a place to send people who were interested in the presidential retreat, since they obviously canít go to the retreat itself, Fieseler wrote. "We hope that the exhibit contents will find a new home in the Thurmont area."
Given the volatility of the restaurant business, Cozyís 85-year run is noteworthy, Fieseler said, as is having a business remain in family control for that length of time.