It seems like everyone in Galway has stepped into Chuck’s Store at some point, some people thousands of times.
The regulars have been coming for coffee, sandwiches and gossip for decades.
“I come in for the food, the service and the people. I went to school with Chuck,” said Leon Hicks, 81, of Galway, as he finished an egg salad sandwich at the counter Friday morning.
But Hicks will soon need to find another hangout, because Chuck’s will be closing on April 28, after 58 years in business.
At age 81, owner Chuck Quinlan, is ready to retire. He still arrives at 4:30 a.m. a few times a week to open Chuck’s, which is a combination of a lunch counter, small grocery and general merchandise store.
“It’s long overdue,” Quinlan said of retirement. “It’s a way of life here.”
The store sits on Route 147 opposite the Galway Central Schools. It’s a hangout for students as well as gray-haired regulars, and is one of the best-known landmarks in this rural western Saratoga County town, serving breakfast, lunch and short-order dinners.
Quinlan and his wife, Ruth, have worked at Chuck’s since they opened it in 1957, when it served only hamburgers, hot dogs and fresh fries. Since then, it’s grown, adding drink coolers and grocery shelves and expanding the menu options.
The whole time, it’s been a family business: Today, four of the Quinlan’s nine children are on the payroll, as is a great-granddaughter. It’s open seven days a week, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Quinlan was born at home in the Montgomery County village of Hagaman in 1934, but the family moved to South Galway when he was 4 years old. It was the later years of the Great Depression.
“We never realized we were poor,” he recalled. “We raised our own. We were self-sufficient.”
Quinlan graduated from Galway High School in 1952, and went to work at the General Electric plant in Schenectady.
“I went to work at GE for awhile, but I didn’t like it,” he recounted. “A farm boy doesn’t like being inside.”
When a round of layoffs hit in 1957, Quinlan and his wife decided to buy the small lunch counter that had opened three years before across from the then-new central school.
It had seven counter seats, a couple of tables, and that was it.
“We were stone broke,” Quinlan said. “We opened on a wing and a prayer.”
Business was good enough that expansions soon began. Quinlan served as town supervisor for a few years in the 1960s, and then for 18 years in the 1970s and 1980s also owned the C&R (like in Chuck & Ruth) restaurant on Route 29.
But the family always kept Chuck’s going. Everyone pitches in to do whatever’s needed, whether it’s waiting tables or doing the short-order cooking.
“I think it’s good, like we see each other more than most families see their other members, and we all get along,” said Quinlan’s daughter Theresa Kozlowski, who waitresses part-time while also working for the Resource Center for Independent Living.
The regulars interviewed Friday all say they’re going to miss Chuck’s, and Chuck himself, with his wisecracking sense of humor.
“Sit anywhere you want, except in the bathroom, because someone might need it,” he greeted a visiting reporter.
“I love this place. I’m going to miss him,” said Joyce Keller of Galway, who used to waitress at the C & R. “The food’s excellent here, it’s cheaper, and it’s all homemade.”
David Slade, a retired Knolls Atomic Power Lab worker, has been coming in since the 1970s. “I understand, but I’m very sorry,” he said. “I live a half-mile up the road, and I like their sausage sandwiches.”
It’s a place people can stop for coffee or a loaf of bread on the way home, Slade said.
Art Emmer and his wife, Nancy, stop in a couple of mornings a week for breakfast, since the location is along the route between their home in Glenville and their camp on Great Sacandaga Lake.
“We’ll have to find another place to go. There’s camaraderie here,” Art Emmer said, greeting Chuck as he sat in a booth for an interview.
Quinlan said that what he’ll miss most is the people he’s come to know.
“The older generation was real steady. They’d always come in just to talk to each other, to read the papers, just to check in with each other,” he said. “If there was a storm, they’d come in to see who was out after the storm. Young people don’t do that. They don’t talk, they just text.”
Quinlan said he’s had feelers from people interested in buying the store, but is in no hurry to sell. Four apartments above the store will continue to produce income, and he and his wife plan to remain in Galway.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.