June 21--THURMONT -- Buyers at the Cozy Restaurant's tag sale Friday were looking for tangible memories, from vintage signs to wrought-iron tables and Tiffany-style lampshades.
The restaurant, which opened in 1929, closed June 8. Over the years, it served a president, a British prime minister, Secret Service personnel, journalists from around the world covering Camp David, and millions of patrons in its 85-year history.
Kim Ross and Mark Marrocco, who are opening Leesburg Public House in Virginia, bought some large old crocks, decorative figures and glassware.
"We put in a bid on the stained-glass windows and signs," said Ross, but they will have to wait to see what others offer.
Most items were tagged, but buyers were invited to bid on large items, such as the stained-glass windows and kitchen equipment.
Jerry Van Sant, of Frederick, took home a large wooden Budweiser box, some vintage signs and dessert cups.
"I used to bring my mother here to eat a lot of times," Van Sant said.
About 100 people were lined up before the sale's opening at 11 a.m., but it was delayed half an hour because some items had not yet been tagged. By early afternoon, at least 100 more had come to see what was for sale.
Some had grown up with the Cozy. Sisters Sue Hoffman Ferguson and Claudia Hoffman Carnes were there to buy something to remember their times at the restaurant.
"I used to love to come and just look at the fish," Ferguson said of the small ponds around the restaurant. "It was really something when I was a child to walk down here and buy a Coke, when a Coke tasted like a Coke."
The family had a small farm, now the site of an apartment complex, in town, and the Hoffmans were friends with the Cozy's owners, said Carnes, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and was back for a visit.
Inside, the sisters found some old signs.
Ernie Rice, a former teacher who worked part time at the Cozy after retirement, was busy taking signs off the walls as buyers picked them out. Some were easily removed with an electric screwdriver, but some larger decorative items took a while to detach from walls or shelves.
A number of former employees were helping with the sale, which continues today.
Some shoppers said they were looking for Christmas ornaments and lights. Several remarked that they will miss the restaurant's exterior holiday trimmings. Cozy owner Jerry Freeze said he's had offers on the many Christmas decorations from buyers in New York and New Jersey.
Items from the restaurant's Camp David Museum were not for sale. Freeze said he is still considering what to do with the items; some he may keep, and some he may donate to the historical society.
"I think most of the sale today will be for souvenirs and trinkets," he said.
There is still plenty to sell: a caboose, a surrey and sled, gazebos, Singer sewing machine tables, chairs and dinnerware.
"We will definitely have more sales. There is a lot more stuff here from 85 years," Freeze said.
"I have a couple of sheds full of baseball memorabilia and other sports memorabilia," he said.
Everything will eventually be sold, Freeze said, from the restaurant and motel to the small shops across the street that make up Cozy Village.
An owner's memories
"It hasn't hit me yet," Freeze said Friday. "I'm still coming to work every day. My office is in the motel and I'm in here checking on things, even though it is closed.
"When you are young, you prefer a challenge. That's why I took the restaurant," he said of the family operation.
Except for three years in the Marine Corps, Freeze, 78, has spent his life working at the restaurant.
The Cozy was the oldest restaurant in Maryland continually operated by the same family.
"We were one of the first three in the Maryland Restaurant Hall of Fame," Freeze said, adding that the other two were Haussner's and Marriott.
The business began as cottages for travelers, then opened a nightclub with dancing and later a family restaurant, he said.
"We've had some great, trustworthy employees and served about 14 million people."
Freeze said he plans to write a book about the Cozy, and part of it will be about the many area companies that have supplied the restaurant over the years.
"A lot of times those people don't get the credit," he said.
The restaurant used to host pingpong tournaments.
"I had a lady here today who was in a photo from winning one of those tournaments, and I gave her the photo," Freeze said.
He described one dangerous catering incident: "We had arranged to cater food for Eastalco (Alcoa Eastalco Works, a aluminum ingot plant now out of business) and the next day there was a strike. We had seven flat tires on our delivery vehicles and had to hire guards at the restaurant because the strikers were upset with us. They had a right to strike, but I had a right to make a living."
Tag sale of antiques and collectibles
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today
103 Frederick Road, Thurmont