Longtime Cedar Rapids restaurant closing after 77 years

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - At Boston Fish Seafood Market and Restaurant, the lights are still on, and the door is still open, at least for now.

The 77-year-old Cedar Rapids restaurant recently announced it’ll be closing May 30. Manager Lenore Zoll, whose family has owned Boston Fish the last 30-plus years, said her family members who own it are ready to retire, and they had been looking for a buyer for the last several years.

Someone did buy the restaurant and its property but wasn’t interested in keeping it open.

"It's hard on everybody,” Zoll said.

She said in her years working there, the rest of the staff had become her extended family, in addition to her actual family she worked with.

"It was my first job when I was 14 years old. And my brother worked here, and my cousins,” Zoll said

The restaurant’s location has changed a couple of times in its 77 years before ownership settled on its current location on 5th Street SE.

But much of the menu has remained the same, which is why Zoll believes customers kept coming back.

The restaurant has been through a lot of local history over that time, including the 2008 flood. With its location just blocks from the Cedar River, Zoll said a few feet of water came into the building then, the height of which is now marked with a sign inside.

Now Boston Fish is asking customers to leave their own memories on the wall, too, with markers set out for them to write their names and how many years they’ve been coming. Many signers wrote they’ve been regulars for decades.

"It's amazing. It's really neat,” Zoll said.

One of the traditions at Boston Fish was that anytime a customer went on a beach vacation, Zoll would ask them to bring back a shell for the restaurant's collection.

With the restaurant closing, people have been coming in to collect their own shells, or to pick up a new one as a memory.

With 77 years’ worth of customers, Zoll said they're going pretty quickly.

That group of regulars includes Krystal Decker, who grew up coming to Boston Fish and recently moved back to Cedar Rapids with her son, Lewis, after living in London.

"We came back, and I was like, 'Oh yeah, we have a fish-and-chip place,’” she said.

Decker said she was “gutted” when she found out it was closing.

"I was just like, 'Where are we going to go?' We come here once a week,” she said. “We come here once a week, at least. And I think a lot of other people do."

Zoll said it’s that loyalty from her customers that makes it so hard to let go.

"It's overwhelming,” she said. “It's nice knowing all your time and hard work was for a reason."

But even though Boston Fish is “sailing away” for now, Zoll said it might not be for good, and that the door is still open for the restaurant to reopen.

"I just don't think I'm ready to stop. I don't know,” she said. “We'll see what happens."