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Nathan's Famous Faithfuls Flock To Yonkers For One Last Dog

Yonkers' Ricardo Fortuna and his brother, Omar, enjoy a meal at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs Sunday, the final day the restaurant was open.
Yonkers' Ricardo Fortuna and his brother, Omar, enjoy a meal at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs Sunday, the final day the restaurant was open.

YONKERS, N.Y. – Loyal fans of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs came from near and far Sunday for one last hurrah before the iconic Yonkers eatery shut its doors.

As they shared a hot dog or basket of crinkle fries, visitors reminisced about the days they spent inside the Central Park Avenue restaurant.  Neal Wilson and his wife, Denise, said Nathan’s was the place to be on weekends while they were in high school.

“This place brings back a lot of memories,” Denise Wilson said. “It was a lot of fun. It’s like we’re losing a little piece of nostalgia.”

Earlier this month Nathan’s President Wayne Norbitz announced the restaurant, built in 1965, would close its Central Avenue location on Sunday.  In its place, a smaller Nathan’s, roughly a third the size, will be built.

The much-anticipated downsizing has been talked about for years but Norbitz said it was spurred along by rebuilding of the plaza Nathan’s is a part of. The owner, New Rochelle-based Amusement Consultants, is revamping the plaza and adding a new cluster of stores, including a CVS.

The new Nathan’s, expected to be completed in roughly a year, will take up about 3,500 square feet, nearly a third of the size of the current building. 

“The new one will be the size of a very large McDonald's,” Norbitz said.

While visitors said they understood the changing times, many said they were sad to see the old restaurant go.

“It’s a shame. This is an iconic place,” Thornwood’s Bob Gulick said Sunday as he took pictures from the parking lot.

Nearby, Anthony Otero was also snapping pictures of the green Nathan’s sign sitting atop the restaurant.  Otera, along with his wife and mother-in-law, drove an hour from their home in Dutchess County to share one last hot dog at their childhood hangout.

Otera grew up in the Bronx and said he visited Nathan’s nearly every weekend.

“It’s sad to see it go,” he said. “We’re going to miss it. It was a landmark in Yonkers.”

Wilson said she too remembered coming to Nathan’s as a teen and taking pictures with her friends in the photo booth, playing pinball at the arcade and grabbing a bite to eat after the movies.

“It was almost like a rite of passage. As soon as you could drive you came here,” the Dobbs Ferry woman said.

While the restaurant will soon be gone, Nathan’s fans will have a chance to secure a piece of nostalgia this weekend.   At 12 p.m. Saturday, Nathan’s will hold an auction at the Central Avenue restaurant, selling off its game machines and restaurant equipment to the highest bidder.

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