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Balderose's Continued Closure Opens Up a Floodgate of Corner Room Memories

No word on whether or not the eatery will reopen

The sign on the door of what only recently became Balderose Fine Foods Market still says "Closed."

After months of waiting for the place to open in the spring of 2013, within a couple of months it was closed — seemingly never to open again. But no one knows. Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said he hadn't heard anything about it from neither the building owners nor the business owners.

Tables and chairs from the sidewalk cafe the business owners were initially excited to open out front are still stacked outside. After a mention on the Facebook page and the "Closed" sign that after a realigning of finances, the eatery would reopen, there's been no action and nary a shuffle in the shop.

The spot, for many years, was a true cornerstone for townies and kids alike. Take a look back at what it was when it was The Corner Room and Esther's. As much as we all like gourmet food, should the spot just revert to a back-to-basics type gathering spot geared to more simple tastes? 

Markets change with the times, and, no, sometimes you really just can't go back. But it's fun to remember ...

If you grew up in Fair Haven, it's likely you have some good memories about a lot of cornerstones in the borough.

One, in particular, that comes to mind now is the old Corner Room, referred to as Esther's dating back to the 1970s. Before, Balderose, it was the Gourmet Picnic.

And, after several years of serving up fine baked goods, sandwiches coffee and other eats, the shop reopened as the highly-anticipated Balderose and quickly closed.

It was listed for sale for several months before the Balderose owners came in and set up shop, and people were abuzz about it.

The second closure within months brought back some memories of a spot where kids used to have lunch, hang out and walk around town before heading back to the Viola L. Sickles School, which used to be Willow Street School.

Allow me to take you on a modest revisited adventure back in time to lunching at Esther's as a fifth grader. Yes, fifth graders did lunch then.

First of all, rather than ordering in gourmet lunches from what are now the mighty fine eateries around town, we 10 and 11-year-olds would get a pass to go out for lunch.

And it was a non-discriminatory activity, because the price was pretty much the same at Esther's for a pretty standard lunch that, in those days, pleased everyone. For $1 we could get a cherry coke and a burger. Fries may have been on that plate, too. Sometimes, we'd go for a milk shake, which, I think, was about 25 cents more, if that.

Oh, and we all got a good chiding from Esther's well-trained successors after turning many a straw wrapper into a growing worm by scrunching it up and dripping soda onto it with the straw — on the glass table.

And then there were the spit balls. Yeah, if one didn't land in your eye, launching them was considered a "cook kid" art.

Somehow we never broke the glass table tops. Hey, Esther, in the days when it was OK to scold other people's kids, kept us in line.

After we filled our bellies with basics that some may scoff at today, we would ramble down River Road to what we called the waterbed store, because, well, waterbeds were sold there.

I don't remember the name, but it was fascinating to us gawky, pig-tailed, bell-bottomed 70s girls. We all wanted one, and for very innocent reasons. It was the craze then, but parents really weren't quite as accommodating as then as they are known to be now.

They were very expensive and if we poked a hole in it, they figured we'd drown, flood the house, or, worse yet, just have too much fun bouncing around on the thing, swishing back and forth and not getting homework done.

It really was all that simple. So the nice man with the, come to think of it, kinda freaky looking mustache and polyester shirt would let us sit on the thing for about five minutes and giggle.

Next, we'd go to the penny candy store, Janell's (someone correct me if my spelling is wrong). What a sweets feast wonderland that place was! It sends me into diabetic shock and a drool fest just thinking about it. Sad, but satiatingly true.

There was candy everywhere. Cases and jars and racks ... all filled with classics, like jawbreakers, Twizzlers, Swedish fish, Red Hot Dollars, Dots, Pixie Sticks and anything else your scrawny little juvenile self desired. Willy Wonka had nothing on this place.

Those sainted (in our minds) owners would probably be sued and sent to the evil sugar influence pokey nowadays. Nonetheless, we, got a bag full of candy for a few cents and it just made our day.

After the jaunt of cokes, burgers, waterbed rides and a candy topper, we'd make our way back to school. And, yes, we sat in class with either a Swedish fish stuck in a filling or a jawbreaker resting in the side of the mouth and looking like a freakishly swollen jaw.

I remember the girl who worked there (family) used to recommend the jawbreakers 'cause they lasted longest. Needless to say, no one answered questions in class in the afternoon, or something would fall out of their mouths or they'd choke trying to camouflage it and talk. Guess what? We survived and thrived.

OK, mercury fillings were on the rise in those years. And sometimes, just sometimes, a toothache and an empty store can bring back a soothing memory or two. Burger and a jawbreaker anyone?

What are your memories of the Corner Room (Esther's)? Tell us about them. And, if anyone has a photo of Esther's, please upload it or email it to me at elaine.develde@patch.com and it will be posted.


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