Among the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic is a popular restaurant that had served the Village of Montgomery for more than 30 years.
The 88 Charles Street Cafe, which had been closed since March 25 due to the coronavirus pandemic, announced on its website last week that it will not re-open.
“It is with a heavy heart that after over 30 years in operation, 88 Charles Street cafe will not be re-opening our door,” read the announcement on the restaurant website. “We will truly miss serving you and seeing your smiling faces. We thank you all for your loyal patronage and we wish you continued health and happiness.”
The announcement also states that anyone who has an unexpired gift certificate or one that expired the New York State shutdown to please send it back (88 Charles St., Montgomery, NY 12549) and include a self-addressed stamped envelope and the gift certificate’s value will be returned.
The announcement caps a bittersweet week in the village that welcomed the opening of the Wine Village, Hudson Valley, at the site of the former Montgomery Worsted Mill and saw the closure of the cafe. The restaurant had been a Montgomery fixture since February 12, 1987, when Mario Balacich opened for business at the former welding shop that had been operated by Paul Teutel of Orange County Choppers fame.
The announcement was greeted with sorrow on social media posts.
“This is very sad,” wrote Jonathan Elson. “Many wonderful memories here and many a happy holiday dinners. Montgomery will never be the same.”
“I had so many wonderful wonderful dinners there with family and friends,” wrote Lunda Mitchell. “Thank you Mario for hosting so many wonderful gatherings with delicious food. I wish you and your staff good health wealth and peace. Montgomery will not be the same.”
Balacich, owner and chef, grew up on his family’s Italian farm with his parents and six older siblings. At the age of 14 and wanting to see the world, he left the farm and joined the merchant marines. Aboard the ship, he worked with the chef, making all sorts of pasta dishes while sailing to all parts of the world.
“I learned something every day about different cultures,” he told a reporter in 2017, “but it was not a cruise ship.”
He arrived in New York in 1969, landing jobs with family members at the Plaza Hotel and later the Waldorf Astoria, where his uncle served as maitre d.” He later opened restaurants in Astoria, Queens and Bergen County New Jersey, before operating the Talk of the Town, near McKinley Square in Walden.
After the move into the larger space in Montgomery, Balacich found instant success, making up the recipes himself and changes to the menu on a daily basis. A large chalkboard served as the menu. It was brought around from table to table as the diners were seated.
“And it got better and better,” he said in a 2017 interview. “After 14 years I had to put on an addition. Many of the same customers came back who had first come as children, and they brought their children. The community was good to me. They all came in and said hello.”