Iconic Williston staple Hildebrandt’s to close

Rose Weldon
The management of Hildebrandt's says that the luncheonette's closure is now up in the air. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

A bittersweet ending is in store for one of the North Shore’s most iconic restaurants.

Hildebrandt’s, the luncheonette that has sat on the corner of Hillside Avenue and Cross Street in Williston Park for over 90 years, has announced that it will soon shutter for good.

The 14-table candy confectionery and ice cream shop said in a post on its Facebook page on Monday that it would “no longer be in business within the next few months.” The statement said that the closing was due to the building’s landlords deciding to sell it, and the new owners “creating something different,” and explicitly stated that the closure was “unrelated to COVID-19.”

First opened by Henry Hildebrandt in the late 1920s, the store was sold to Alma Steffens in the 1950s. Steffens then sold it to Helen Baum in 1974, and Baum sold it to Alfred and Joanne Strano in 1975. The Stranos later sold it to their daughter Susan, who owned and operated it with her husband, Bryan Acosta, from 2007 until her death in 2015. Since then, Acosta has kept the store going with his and Susan’s daughter, Hunter.

Films like the Naomi Watts-starring “The Book of Henry” and, most notably, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” have used the shop’s frozen-in-time interiors to evoke a cozy soda fountain aesthetic.

In 2011, the restaurant was featured on the Food Network program “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” with manager Tom Bauman showing host and chef Guy Fieri a process of making butter pecan ice cream. Former owner Joanne Strano also appeared, making sauce and fried mozzarella with the chef. Fieri praised the location as “timeless.”

In comments on the Facebook post, fans wrote of their memories at Hildebrandt’s, recalling stories of parents meeting there and shopping for penny candy as children. Others suggested having it declared a landmark or creating petitions to “save” it.

The shop’s owners also wrote in the Facebook post that they will be selling off pieces of the interior, including a phone booth, to any interested parties.

“It’s been 93 years of this amazing place and 46 years in our family,” the post read. “Although we don’t want to part with it we are grateful for the memories and love built around this wonderful place.”

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