Hildebrandt’s to stay open for ‘a couple more months’

Hildebrandt’s to stay open for ‘a couple more months’
Management of Hildebrandt's in Williston Park says the restaurant will stay open "for a couple more months." (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The iconic Hildebrandt’s Restaurant in Williston Park will be open for a few more months before it closes for good, the shop’s management said last week.

“We will stay open for at least a couple more months,” a Jan. 31 post on the restaurant’s Facebook page said. “We are staying open until we announce the official date of closing.”

Management also responded to a comment suggesting that the business seek help from Barstool Sports’ small business fund by writing, “it’s not COVID related” and the landlord  “wants us out.”

The update is the latest in a roller coaster saga that first saw the restaurant announce its closure six months ago. In July, the owners said in a now-removed post on its Facebook page that it would “no longer be in business within the next few months.”

The closing was said to be due to the building’s landlords deciding to sell it, and the new owners “creating something different.” It said the closure was “unrelated to COVID-19.”

Management said in a later Facebook post that it was looking at ways to have the building named a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

“With whatever time we may have we are working to make Hildebrandt’s a landmark so even when the building is sold, it will ALWAYS remain our beloved place,” the Facebook post read.

The news led to a movement among fans and patrons to have the building declared a landmark, with a Change.org petition for the cause which over 13,000 people have signed.

Not long afterward, the shop reported in another Facebook post in August that the original buyer, who intended to close the store, had “backed out of the deal,” though the building  remained for sale. Management then wrote in a comment on the same post that “to get [landmark] status the owner of the building has to want it to be a landmark. And he doesn’t. We haven’t heard anything back about it.”

Another post in October said that “the new landlords cannot evict us till the end of the year.” A comment on that replying to a customer’s inquiry if the store would be able to move stated that moving would not be an option “because of the large expense.”

A source close to Hinrich Sparks and Henry Wittschieben, who owned the building at 84 Hillside Ave. that houses Hildebrandt’s, said they sold the building in the last several months but did not specify when.

In a comment on a Dec. 7 Instagram post, the management replied to a request for updates with unfortunate news.

“The only update we have is that the building is bought and the new landlord wants us out,” the comment said.

No official date has been given.

First opened by Henry Hildebrandt in the late 1920s, the restaurant was sold to Alma Steffens in the 1950s. Steffens then sold it to Helen Baum in 1974, and Baum sold it to Alfred and Joanne Strano in 1975.

The Stranos later sold it to their daughter Susan, who owned and operated it with her husband, Bryan Acosta, from 2007 until her death in 2015. Since then, Acosta has kept the store going with his and Susan’s daughter, Hunter.

Films like “The Book of Henry,” starring Naomi Watts, and, most notably, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” have used the shop’s frozen-in-time interiors to evoke a cozy soda fountain aesthetic.

In 2011, the restaurant was featured on the Food Network program “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” with manager Tom Bauman showing host and chef Guy Fieri a process for making butter pecan ice cream. Former owner Joanne Strano also appeared, making sauce and fried mozzarella with the chef. Fieri praised the location as “timeless.”

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