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Disappearing Local Icons

November 19, 2015

There are some institutions that are just part of the fabric of everyday life in a city. They will vary place to place. But they are businesses that have been in town for a very long time. So long, it’s almost as if people take them for granted.

Albany is not alone in losing some of its cherished local icons. Just look at the state of Jewish Delis in Manhattan. It’s tragic.

Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just this week Albany has suffered two major losses.

The Spectrum 8 is no more.

Sure, there will still be a movie theater in the building. And it’s kind of amazing how quickly the Spectrum will be converted to a Landmark theater. For what it’s worth, I think Landmark is a great cinema operator.

This loss feels more emotional than practical. I suppose it’s even possible that the theater could tangibly improve with new management, new money, and new energy. I’m cautiously optimistic, but there is no denying that this is the end of an era.

I’m sorry that I missed the last day of operations. I did see a picture of a long line waiting to get in on the theater’s last day. And that made me even sadder. Mostly because it was a reminder that I wasn’t there to help see the place out. But it also served to make me regret not catching more films at this local place, when it was truly a local place.

Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry has also shut down its Central Avenue restaurant.

While the news is not entirely out of left field, it was still a bit jarring to find this out yesterday. Sure, they have a newish location in Latham. But that’s right across the street from Ala Shanghai, and it’s missing the history and charm of the original.

Young Master Fussy was visibly upset that the place to get his favorite fried clam strips was closed. However, even he conceded that if push came to shove and he had to decide between soup dumplings or clams, soup dumplings would always win.

At least we made a conscious effort to eat at Bob & Ron’s a fair bit. Stepping in through those doors was like walking back in time. Whenever we would sit at one of the well-worn booths, I liked to imagine what it was like to live in old Albany. I’m sure Mr. Dave would love to tell me.

On Facebook yesterday, I mentioned that nothing lasts. And it’s true. So instead of being sad that these places are gone, I’m going to feel glad that I had the chance to experience them.

But this post should also be a wake up call to you all. Get out there. Even during winter. Even if it’s snowing. Visit your favorite places. Support the local businesses. Bowl at the Playdium. Eat a pizza at The Orchard Tavern. Sit at the Famous Lunch counter and be served breakfast all day.

Beloved institutions aren’t untouchable. They go away all the time. Make sure you’re enjoying them while they are here.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. MikeH permalink
    November 19, 2015 10:39 am

    It is sad to see the Central Ave Bob n Ron’s close. I have been eating there pretty much since I was born in 1974. I remember loving their cheeseburgers before eventually graduating to the fish fry and clam rolls. In my opinion the cusk fish fry is superior to the haddock you can get everywhere else. And their fried clams blow Ted’s out of the water. Onion rings used to be great – were actually not that good last time I ate there a couple weeks ago. Anyone remember the weird extruded fries that came out of something like a soft serve machine before going into the fryer? Those were great but were done away with several years ago. However I must say that the quality was never quite the same in the several rounds of ownership after the Deleonardis family sold it. I do hope though the current owners can keep the Latham location going so we can continue to get the cusk fish fry and the awesome clam rolls.

  2. November 19, 2015 11:37 am

    A good reminder. Thank you.

    With respect to the Spectrum, your optimism is well placed. A friend moved here from Milwaukee where he frequented a Landmark Theater. He thought he’d miss his Landmark Theater programming but was happy to find the Spectrum programming matching the standards of Landmark. He was, however, sad that the Spectrum didn’t offer nutritional yeast for the popcorn. Maybe our new Landmark will. I see they will broadcast the National Theater plays, which are great. Also, Landmark retained all Spectrum employees (even gave them raises and benefits). So let’s keep going to the Spectrum. I want them to be there another 33 years. While we’re at it, we should enjoy the Madison Theater, too. They have the best popcorn in town (cooked in coconut oil).

  3. November 19, 2015 1:32 pm

    Who remembers when the Madison changed its sign to the “Norma Jean” Madison? Then lightning struck the sign like a week later? It remains to be seen if the Gods of Albany shall choose to smile on the new Spectrum…

  4. November 19, 2015 7:11 pm

    Supporting local restaurants is something that’s not a problem for my wife and I. If anything, we need to eat at home more.

    I may be alone on this, but I was not a fan of Bob & Ron’s, I never went there and I live literally around the corner. I did not think the food was very good. And the place didn’t have any charm, it was a dump in the worst way, and I love dumps. It doesn’t surprise me it closed.

    • David Nardolillo permalink
      November 22, 2015 4:17 pm

      Steve, you are not alone. I’ve had Bob & Ron’s at the bottom of my list of local fish fry places ever since I was young, and have actually told people to go elsewhere. I could live with the run-down seating area, but the things I normally order (shakes, fish fry, french fries) were all clearly inferior to offerings elsewhere. In fact I would go as far to say that I hated their fries. We should pay attention to owner’s claims that Albany is not friendly to small business, since that could imperil other favorites. However, from a food nostalgia perspective, this is not a loss in my eyes.

  5. Ryan H permalink
    November 19, 2015 8:13 pm

    Dang it. I thought this was Spectrum’s last weekend coming up. Oops! I was hoping to get in one last mint brownie and a movie before it (possibly) goes away. Guess I will head there this weekend and check on the brownie status.

  6. buffsoulja permalink
    November 23, 2015 11:40 pm

    Bob and Ron’s is a loss if only because of the vintage sign that separated some character of old school Albany from the throes of car dealerships on that now ugly stretch of Central Ave

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