Iconic Fireplace restaurant in New Jersey closing after 65 years

PARAMUS, New Jersey (WABC) -- An iconic restaurant in New Jersey is closing its doors Friday after 65 years in business.

The Fireplace, located on NJ-17 in Paramus, has been serving up American fare in Bergen County since 1956, but it is now another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising cost of goods, and the labor shortage.

"We are saddened to inform you that we have made the difficult decision to close our doors at 4 pm," owners said in a message posted on the business' Facebook page. "Over the past months, we have had an increasingly difficult time covering the costs of running our restaurant. We would like to say thank you to all of our loyal patrons who have supported us during our 65 years. It has been an honor serving you."

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It was founded as a hot dog and hamburger stand by the late Frank Reilly, a Navy veteran turned FBI agent, and went on to become an institution known for its comfort food and timeless casual atmosphere.

His son Patrick, who ran the business until the end, bought out adjacent homeowners to build the size of the property and expand.

"I can't really point to that specifically. I mean, we're in the same boat as a lot of restaurants that are struggling. The struggle is real. The cost of goods-just getting goods-is a real issue."

"It's just a tradition," customer Anne Tappen said. "An iconic vintage restaurant that so many people came here as kids, and that can relate to our high school days, coming here and bringing our kids here and my grandchildren here, and it's just so sad."

Patrons started lining up in the hot sun more than an hour before the Fireplace open for the final time at 11 a.m., scores of them with memories that span three generations.

"I used to come with my parents all the time to the restaurant have breakfast," customer Jennifer Tiedemann said. "I always got a special feeling here. I call it 'the fireplace feeling,' that the food is just so good."

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The restaurant survived storms and economic downturns, and it managed to stay open through the heart of the pandemic shutdowns. Owners started drive-through service and takeout, but ultimately, it was not enough to cover the costs of running the restaurant.

"I can't really point to (COVID) specifically," Patrick Reilly said. "I mean, we're in the same boat as a lot of restaurants that are struggling. The struggle is real. The cost of goods, just getting goods, is a real issue."

"Well, I guess it's a sign of the times," customer Richard Sprenger said. "Things are changing. People are not being able to sustain businesses."

Whatever the reasons, the loyal customers of the Fireplace -- and their children and grandchildren -- are heartbroken. Many waited up to two hours to have their final Fireplace cheeseburgers.

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