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‘Been A Great Ride’

Schuyler’s Country Kitchen To Cease Operation

Schuyler's Country Kitchen, located at 4477 Fairmount Ave., announced via its Facebook page on Sunday that the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions have led them to end their operation as a restaurant at the end of August. P-J photo by Cameron Hurst

LAKEWOOD — A longtime Fairmount Avenue breakfast and lunch spot will be closing its doors at the end of August.

Schuyler’s Country Kitchen, located at 4477 Fairmount Ave., announced via its Facebook page on Sunday that the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions have changed “how we do business and we will be unable to survive.”

The restaurant, which opened in February 2011, was forced to shut its doors on March 16. They attempted to open up for takeout business on May 1, but never were able to open their dining room.

“I measured 6 feet and could only get four tables through the building and five bar stools,” Deb Schuyler, co-owner with her husband Ernie, told The Post-Journal. “Feeding 25 people and bringing on the staff that would be needed to do that just wasn’t lucrative and we wouldn’t be able to survive that way.”

The owners did attempt to get creative: thanks to a special arrangement with Jamestown Awning and Party Tents, the Schuylers were able to add outdoor seating that became popular due to cooperation from Mother Nature.

“They gave us a special price in putting up the awnings for three months and then my son and I put out seven picnic tables out there,” she said. “It’s been a good summer. It’s been absolutely fantastic and that has been so helpful because we can feed about 35 people. Some people also do take their food home with them.”

But attempting to do business during the week soon proved unsuccessful leading them to narrow their focus to weekends.

“We slowly picked the days that were our best days and stuck with that,” she said. “Lunches were not good, so we stopped that. We were trying to keep all the inventory and to keep it fresh for doing lunches was difficult. … We were throwing out food and we never throw out food.”

Breakfast over the weekend had been generating business — but not enough to profit.

“We’re really not making any money but we’re paying the bills,” she said. “We’re existing just to stay alive and pay the mortgage and bills and taxes and things of that nature. That’s why we’ve been open those days.”

The Schuyler family has a long history in food service in Chautauqua County. Schuyler’s father-in-law’s business, Schuyler Catering, provided catering services to local fire departments and Midway State Park after converting his chicken poultry business into a chicken barbeque business dating back to the 1940s.

“Ernie bought the business from his father in the ’70s and then sold it, moved to Florida, which is where we met and then we moved back up here over 10 years ago because we wanted to be closer to our family and friends,” said Schuyler, who originates from Chicago. “As we’re getting older in age, you start prioritizing what’s important … It’s been great and we’ve met the most wonderful people in this community. I will never move back from a big city because I just love it here. It’s beautiful and fantastic here. Chautauqua County is definitely home.”

Since announcing their decision to close the restaurant, Schuyler said the response has been “overwhelming.”

“I’ve gotten a huge response on our Facebook page,” she said. “It’s all been positive and it is really sad especially after almost 10 years. Ten years ago today we were remodeling. If you would’ve told me 10 years ago that we would be forced to close like this, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Schuyler did say that she has applied for an essential license to utilize the building in a different way, but was unable to divulge the details at this time.

“An essential license which means we won’t be able to shut down,” she said. “We signed a mortgage for it and we still owe 10 years on this property. We can’t just move our business somewhere else and I’m not going down without a fight. We’re going to make lemonade out of the lemons we got. Hopefully this new business will be as successful as the last business one.”

In the meantime, Schuyler asks for the community’s continued support.

“From the beginning until March 16, it’s been a great ride,” she said. “We started out slow and then we’d be so busy in the summertime that people would be waiting up for an hour. I’d apologize to those waiting and most people said that it was worth it. If you’re a little place like us, you have to turn over people quick and what a great staff I’ve had between the cooks, the kitchen help, the girls have great personalities and all the people that started here when I opened, they’re still here. It’s just been great for our family.”

The business will continue to serve breakfast on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in August from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. through the end of the month. They will also have chicken barbecue dinners will also continue to be available on Saturdays during the month from noon-3 p.m.

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