ALLENTOWN, Pa. - It started in a 30x30 shed in 1927, and has been in continuous operation ever since, but now the Ritz Barbecue at the Allentown Fairgrounds has closed its doors for good.
"When the pandemic came along... shut down for three months now... Expenses keep piling up and we just can't afford to keep going," said Grace Stinner, Ritz Barbecue's co-owner.
She and her husband Jeff have owned the place since 1981. The restaurant has made it through a world war, a depression, and a fire, but it couldn't make it through the coronavirus.
"Well it was hard before the pandemic because the chains are just taking over everything… This pandemic it's just the little guys don't have much of a chance anymore," said Jeff.
The Ritz was known for its ice cream, they made nearly 1000 gallons a week. Sandy Beiry has been going there since she was 16.
"We have a lot of good memories here and the food has always been so good," she said. “You could go in there and eat by yourself you never felt alone. It's like all the real good places went out of business."
They were hoping to sell it to new owners, but that hasn't panned out.
"We wanted to keep operating until the new owners stepped in and we would've helped them along," Grace said.
The couple is now just hoping to donate the frozen and canned food they have left to help those in need.
"We like to find some nonprofits to give it to, food banks, a soup kitchen, a senior center," Grace said. "It's an emotional time for both of us. Saying goodbye to something that's been part of your life for so long."