WATERVILLE — The chili dogs were the first to go.

Zena McFadden, general manager at Bolley’s Famous Franks, did not make a new batch of chili for her hot dogs on Friday like she usually does.

There was no point.

Bolley’s, a culinary landmark for hot dogs, hamburgers and hand-cut french fries on College Avenue for the past 52 years, is closing. Last call is 6 p.m. Thursday, when the doors shut for the last time.

While the restaurant and the original Bolley’s, now in Hallowell, were once connected, they are separate businesses and the one in Hallowell is not closing.

“I knew we were getting done and we do our chili 14 pounds at a time,” McFadden, 45, said Monday. “I didn’t want to have any left over and throw it away. So I didn’t make any more.”

The decision to close was not easy.

“It’s for peace of mind — a new chapter,” she said. “I’m ready to get done. My husband’s been working seven days a week and we don’t get to spend a lot of time together. You never have a day off when you run your own restaurant. I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”

McFadden, who lives in Sidney, leased the premises — her father, Richard Williams, 71, who lives in Rangeley, owns the building, the land and the equipment.

“This is completely my decision to close,” she said from one of the picnic tables outside the restaurant. “It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m going to miss my customers, a lot of them come in every day. I think I’ll shed a lot of tears.”

Tony Champine, 51, Bolley’s longtime fry cook, said McFadden and her daughter Meagan Williams, 27, who also works at the restaurant, are like family to him. He said it will be hard finding a job like the one he has had at Bolley’s.

“I’ve been working here 27 years. I’m devastated,” Champine, of Waterville, said behind the counter Monday, barking orders and serving up fries. “I’m sad. More than you’ll ever know. I’m sad. I’ll miss all the customers. I wanted to retire at Bolley’s, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. I was taken care of here. I broke down and cried.”

Meagan Williams, McFadden’s daughter, said she has been at Bolley’s all her life — the past six years as a cook. Closing the restaurant doesn’t seem real she said.

“I’m upset,” she said. “It’s hard to watch it go; it’s all I’ve seen my mom do for my whole life.

Customers came and went Monday, ordering the same food they have enjoyed for generations, mostly hot dogs — straight up with hand cut fries and a Pepsi.

“I’m 43 and I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid with my parents — 25 years anyway,” said customer Brian Hunter of Winslow. “I’m seriously upset because this is a cool place to get a dog and drop in. It’s simple — you’re in and out or you can sit here and shoot the breeze with this guy Tony, who’s quite a character — he’s always made me laugh and he’s a really cool dude.”

McFadden said the original Bolley’s Famous Franks was founded in Augusta in 1957 by her grandfather’s brother Nelson “Bolley” Genest. In 1962 Genest moved the business to Water Street in Hallowell, while McFadden’s grandfather, Guy Genest, opened his own hot dog stand — also called Bolley’s — in a small shed on College Avenue.

McFadden said the Bolley’s in Hallowell was sold when her great-uncle died several years ago. She said despite having the same name, the businesses have separate ownership, management and offered separate products and services.

McFadden said her grandfather expanded the original shack in Waterville with a front room, then added a back room to the building to make it what it is today. McFadden’s parents, Richard and Donna (Genest) Williams took over the business in 1982 when Guy Genest retired. McFadden and her sister, Virginia Brown, took over the business in 2002. Brown was killed in a car crash in 2007 and McFadden carries on by herself.

McFadden said a real estate broker is scheduled to visit the restaurant this week to see what is possible for the building and the property.

“Hopefully my dad is going to try to sell it and hopefully they will try to continue with the Bolley’s name — I believe my father will be willing to sell the name, too,” she said.

McFadden said she will take some time off in the coming weeks to relax. Williams wants to go back to school for computer sciences. Champine said he will “pound the pavement” for another job.

“My husband and I have talked — for years we have been stuck to this community — who knows, maybe we’ll travel,” she said. “I want to live my life. When I told my dad we were going to close, it kind of was a relief, it was like a weight was off my shoulders, but today — I’m kind of second guessing myself. I’m nervous. I’m nervous to start over with something else, but I want to do something different while I can.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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