WATERVILLE — After 52 years of serving hot dogs, burgers and fries to generations of central Maine residents, Bolley’s Famous Franks neared its final hours Thursday night, with customers lined up for one last meal at the venerable stand.
Waterville residents who stood in a lunch-hour line that stretched outside and into the parking lot were joined by former residents who made it a point to stop for one last hot dog.
It’s a place of nostalgia for Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Burt Helm, who grew up in Waterville and stopped by on the way to Bangor to drop friends off at the airport. When thinking about Bolley’s, Helm remembers frequent visits in high school with friends.
Helm, 31, who writes for Inc. magazine in Brooklyn, said he often visits Coney Island, the American epicenter of hot dogs, still longing for his childhood favorite.
“The only hot dogs that I found that compare to these are Nathan’s in Coney Island, and I’ll be eating them and at the same time be missing Bolley’s,” Helm said. “I feel like Waterville and Brooklyn are the two capitals for hot dogs.”
Bolley’s Waterville shop is owned by Zena McFadden, the granddaughter of Guy Genest, who opened the stand in 1962. McFadden said the decision to close was made for her “peace of mind” after 30 years of working seven days a week. She said this week that she and her husband hope to be able to travel now that the responsibility for the hot dog stand has been lifted.
Her father, Richard Williams, of Rangeley, owns the building and the equipment. He plans to consult with a real estate broker next week about the best way to market the shop for sale.
Bolley’s was Joe Sawyer’s favorite restaurant growing up, a place he recalls visiting with his brothers and their father from the time he was 6 years old.
The family was on its way to a family camp in Abbott but stopped in the city for one last taste of his childhood favorite – and to give his daughter the chance to say she was at Bolley’s on its last day.
“I have good memories from coming here, and every time I come back home, I stop every time,” Sawyer said. “It’s my favorite restaurant.
It’s where North Street resident Faye Cookson, who was adopted, would meet with her biological father when he’d visit Waterville every couple of months. It’s where Cookson, 29, met her biological sister for the first time when she was 17 years old.
“This is a cornerstone place for us,” Cookson said. “This place is a big deal. It’s sad it’s closing.”