You might just miss Oliver’s Cafe in Glenville if you aren’t looking for it.
The quaint one-story residential-looking building at 181 Freemans Bridge Road that has been home to Warren and Claudia Bush’s restaurant will only be open for about one more month. The cafe, named for a 1900s photo of a man the owners dubbed Oliver, opened Oct. 31, 1993. After almost 28 years – 22 of them under the Bushes’ management – the mainstay will close on Aug. 29.
The couple, who live in Scotia, had retired six years ago, and leased out the restaurant. However, that partnership didn’t work out and a year and a half ago the couple took the cafe back over.
“Our goal was to get it going again, we’ve always had great business,” Claudia Bush said. “Then the pandemic hit and the customers have just been extremely supportive. We’ve really just had a great business in the last year and a half and we just wanted to go out with that, just kind of go out on top.”
Bernie Mansback was surprised to hear they were closing up as he finished up a cup of coffee on Thursday.
Mansback, who finished breakfast around 12:30 p.m., recalled coming an average of at least once a week over about 20 years when he lived just two blocks from the business. He’s been eating there since the joint opened up, he said.
Although he moved to Clifton Park eight years ago, Mansback still visits the cafe.
“Whenever I’m out this way I like to come here,” he said. “I like a family place.”
The family atmosphere is just what the Bush’s intended when they opened up.
“We’ve always tried to promote it that way,” Claudia Bush said. “This is your home away from home we want you to feel comfortable.”
But it’s not just the owners that give the cafe it’s family feel – it’s the food too.
A couple of stools down from Mansback sat Mike Lott, who was just finishing a lunch of fries and a hamburger.
“They’re real french fries like your mom used to make,” he said, referring to the hand cut strips of potatoes deep fried in oil.
And you can’t forget about the hamburgers either, he said, noting it was a good place in town to get a tasty burger at a good price – $9.95, with salad or fried included.
Also enjoying a burger was David Goodrich with his girlfriend’s dad, Nelson Fedorow.
Goodrich said he had grown up in Glenville but it wasn’t until he was employed by then-Time Warner Cable 17 years ago that a coworker suggested they have lunch at Oliver’s. Now, he doesn’t suggest anywhere else to eat if he’s in Glenville. That’s how he and Fedorow ended up there Thursday afternoon ordering the house-named Ollie burger.
That’s a burger with swiss cheese, peppers, onions and mushrooms.
It was an item the Bush’s had just come up with when they first sat down to create the menu.
“I don’t even like mushrooms, but there’s something about the Ollie Burger,” Goodrich said.
The two said they hope to enjoy a few more meals there before the doors close.
“It’s a terrible loss to the community and my stomach, my taste buds,” Fedorow said.
After spending most of their married years operating the cafe, the Bushes said that as they’ve gotten older, with Claudia being 66 and Warren 74, they recognized that the restaurant world is a “young person’s business.”
Even after almost 42 years of marriage working side-by-side most of that time, the couple praised each other’s strengths during a 30-minute conversation after shutting down for the day..
“There isn’t anybody better than my wife at the front of the house,” Warren Bush said. “She knows everybody’s name, she knows what college the kids go to, everything. Without her we wouldn’t have lasted a year.”
“I don’t know about that,” Claudia replied.
She said it’s teamwork that kept them going for so long.
“You have to work together and you have to have the same mindset,” she said. “He knows if I need help on the floor and I know if he needs help back there” referring to the kitchen.
The other reason they stayed open so long was the customers.
“To make a list of the regular customers would be (a) 1000-page book. Thank you, to all our customers we loved taking care of you, and thank you for taking care of us too,” the couple write on a Facebook post to its customers Monday. “Oliver’s was greater than the sum of its parts.”
One of the couple’s fondest memories was that of a young couple that came in to dine the day before their wedding, 25 years ago.
That couple ended up becoming regulars for several years until they moved. Claudia Bush said they still get a Christmas card from them.
Mansback said it would be nice to see someone else take the place over.
While Warren Bush said they’ve received a few offers no decisions have been made. The couple is focusing on closing up business and taking some time off, which they’ll spend traveling, visiting their grandchildren and maybe even helping out their daughter with her two food trucks.
Until then though the couple is inviting people to stop in for a few last meals, to talk and to write on their chalkboard memory wall about the experiences they’ve had at the cafe over the years. For the couple, those experiences include 10,106 sunrises, 15 Nor’easters, six presidents, three recessions, two late night break-ins, one Y2K scare, one world pandemic and approximately 1,120,320 eggs, they said in their Facebook post.
“I lost count after 800,000,” the post said.