CLEVELAND — An iconic Cleveland restaurant will shut down for good at the end of March.
Old Fashion Hot Dogs in Ohio City will close its doors on March 29, according to Tom Sorma, one of the owners.
The Lorain Avenue building in which Old Fashion Hot Dogs rents space has been bought by a developer, My Place Group. The developer, Chad Kertesz, offered the owners the chance to stay and reopen the shop in the new building that will go up in place of the current one.
By email, Kertesz said in part, “We have done everything to keep [the shop] open to preserve the business including making an offer to buy the recipes and name, in addition to other attempts to keep them going. The owner declined and has told us he prefers to retire.”
Sorma said that had this not happened, he and his brother would “probably hang in there for a while longer” to see how things went. But he said he doesn’t think opening in a new location would be the same.
“I think this is it. I’m going to retire,” Sorma said. “I’m 67-years-old. It’s kind of a little hard to keep going on.”
He plans to spend time with his grandchildren in retirement, once the shop shuts down on or about March 29.
In the meantime, Old Fashion Hot Dogs continues to serve hot dogs, French fries and chocolate milk to loyal customers.
For many of the people who walk through the doors of this tiny shop, the memories are priceless.
“It just reminds me of my childhood,” Ted Tanczuk, a longtime customer said. “My dad would bring me here. He’s passed away. But I just, I just love this place.”
Tanczuk said he’s been coming to the shop, once called Hot Dog Inn, since he was about four years old.
“That’s 67 years ago. I’ve been coming here for 67 years,” Tanczuk said.
Tanczuk comes about once a month now, since he lives in Brooklyn, Ohio. But he wondered where he would go for hot dogs once Old Fashion Hot Dogs closes.
“This is a Cleveland institution,” Tanczuk said. “I mean, it’s been here forever.”
The shop, which is just nine feet wide by 40 feet long, was started by a Greek immigrant in 1928. Tom Sorma’s family took it over in the late 1980s and renamed it. They’ve been serving the famous chili dogs ever since.
Asked if they had ever hoped to expand or open additional locations, Sorma said no.
“It worked for 92 years. Why would you do that?” Sorma said. “This used to be seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We had enough headaches running that.”
Sorma, who grew up in the neighborhood and remembers eating there as a child, said he’ll miss the people who eat at the shop and hearing “every different story from all walks of life.”
“The oldest customer we had was Mr. Wells, and he’s [been gone] about five years now,” Sorma said. “I asked him, I said, ‘Mr. Wells, when was the first time you came in here?’ He said, ‘1933. My dad brought me. I was 10 years old.”
The owners and customers alike are having a difficult time saying goodbye.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” Sorma said. “But what are you going to do?”
For now, Sorma has arranged to sell the iconic sign that hangs outside on Lorain Avenue. But the shop remains open for now, serving hungry regulars.
“Today we’ve been so jammed up, it’s been off the charts,” Sorma said Wednesday.
The shop briefly ran out of hot dog buns on Wednesday afternoon. A woman eating at the shop offered to go pick up buns at a nearby store for Sorma.
“Lifesaver,” Sorma said. “She went out and she picked up those buns. We can continue on right now.”
Ted Tanczuk said he’s been bringing his own son, Ted, Jr., to eat at the shop for years. They plan to stop in a few more times before it closes for good.
“You go through life and then, when you find something that you’ve been with for so long,” Tanczuk said, pausing to reflect, “it just brings back memories from when you were a kid.”
Sorma knows his life will change soon.
Asked what it will be like to walk out the door for the last time, Sorma said, “That’s going to be different, yeah. That’s going to be different, for sure.”
But for one more month, he’ll keep hot dogs on the grill and customers will continue showing up to share part of Cleveland’s history.
The shop is open from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday, as well as noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays, and is cash-only.