CHESHIRE — A 90-year tradition continues.
Local family-owned eatery Blackie’s hot dog stand is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the restaurant’s opening in 1928.
Manager Rick Flavin grew up near the hot dog stand and most of his family has worked in the restaurant. Blackie’s was founded by Flavin’s great aunt, Mary Mahoney, originally from Ireland, and his great uncle, Art Blackman of Waterbury. Following Blackman’s death in 1939, Mary ran the restaurant with her sister Nel Flavin who later inherited Blackie’s from Mary. Nel Flavin was a fixture at the restaurant until her death in 1994.
“Nel was awesome,” Rick Flavin said of his grandmother. “She was always working behind the counter. She loved the customers. She was very protective of her relish.”
The business began in 1928 as a gas station, which soon sold hot dogs to “hungry travelers and families during the day and couples who danced to all hours of the night,” according to a history on the restaurant’s website. A “No Dancing” sign still in place at the restaurant was posted to avoid a local cabaret tax.
Rick Flavin said many of Blackie’s regular customers are families that have been eating there for years.
“There are lots of people who have had first dates here and gotten married,” said Flavin. “Pretty much the most common thing to hear is ‘my grandfather or father brought me here.’”
The original building burned down in 1945 and a separate building was built at 2200 Waterbury Road. The current establishment displays its history throughout the restaurant in photographs, newspaper clippings and original menus.
One photo in particular displays a bottle of Blackie’s Pepper Relish floating in outer space with the Earth behind it. Rick Mastraccio, a NASA astronaut, was a frequent customer at Blackie’s and decided to take the relish into space.
“His wife had contacted me and asked if I can put it in a specific bottle so that it can be able to go into outer space,” said Flavin.
The family has held onto many of the traditions of the restaurant including serving their signature relish, not serving fries and remaining closed on Fridays due to the founding family’s Catholic faith.
“We’re just keeping the tradition alive,” said Flavin. “We often do private parties on Fridays. Mostly it’s for fundraisers and things like that.”
Flavin said Blackie’s prides itself in giving back to the community through fundraisers and other activities.
Theresa Mastrianni said she has been eating at Blackie’s with her family for as long as she can remember. Mastrianni knows most of the people that work at the restaurant and Flavin always remembers her order.
“It’s comforting,” she said. “We come every Monday. We’ve been doing it for a couple of years.”