SILVER SPRING, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Mrs. K’s Restaurant and Cellar, also known as “Mrs. K’s Toll House” restaurant, has closed its doors after 90 years of business at the Silver Spring location. The leasing agent trying to secure a new restaurateur for the historic establishment told FOX 5 on Monday, coronavirus restrictions “are hemorrhaging businesses like Mrs. K’s.”
Patrons and neighbors learned of the news last week.
“I loved the food. I’m sorry to hear that they are closing. I was shocked to hear when my coworker told me that they were,” said Monica Boone, who recalled seeing a man set-up to propose there.
Sasha Mackler, who lives nearby, told FOX 5, “We’re really surprised and disappointed, it’s a, you know, it’s a real landmark in the neighborhood and we’ll be sorry to see it go. And really – a little bit of anxiety of what might replace it.”
Exterior of Mrs. K's Toll House on Colesville Rd. in July 1998. (Photo by James M. Thresher/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The words “toll house” in the restaurant’s known name is a throwback to the times when part of the structure was used to collect toll fees in the late 1800s to the mid-1910s – when present-day Colesville Road was still a country-area private turnpike, according to the Silver Spring Historical Society.
Local historians say “Mrs. K” was Olive Blanche Kreuzburg, who opened the cozy restaurant with her husband back in 1930. New owners took over the business in the 1990s.
Their leasing agent, who asked not to be named, told FOX 5 the owners temporarily closed when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued the state’s "stay at home" orders in March. Those who previously worked at, or who are familiar with the restaurant, told FOX 5, Mrs. K’s eventually tried take-out service. The restaurant’s rooms are too small to carry enough capacity and social distance inside, we’re told.
A former employee also said Mrs. K’s provided higher-end meals. “No one wants to take out a $40 meal,” said that employee, who is now looking for a new job.
Interior of Mrs. K's Toll House on Colesville Rd. in July 1998. (Photo by James M. Thresher/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Last month, when Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich rolled-back indoor to 25%, is when the leasing agent says the owners decided to close for good.
“A lot of their business is weddings, parties, the biggest time of year, this time of year, Christmas time, Thanksgiving, they have a lot of office parties,” said Thomas Mortan, who is running a Christmas tree business out of Mrs. K’s parking lot. Moran told FOX 5 he is related to the original owners.
Asked if the state and county are doing enough to help struggling businesses, Mortan told FOX 5: “Not the restaurants, they’re not.”
“We have done so much as a county, but we can’t do it alone,” said Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker, “Every day that goes by, more small business are closing for good, more people are out of a job for good, nobody is going to rehire many people in this kind of climate for a while. So the government has a responsibility to put the money on the street, through the counties, the keep every small business open as possible, and everybody employed as possible … that’s their responsibility.”
After our report aired, the county shared the following statement on the amount of assistance Mrs. K's received:
"COVID-19 has affected businesses both small and large in Montgomery County. It is always sad to see a business close, especially one such as Mrs. K’s with such a long history. Mrs. K’s was one of more than 2100 small businesses in Montgomery County who received funding through our public health emergency grant program. At the local level, we are trying to help our businesses as much as we can but they are facing huge challenges - what we need is federal help so that businesses can get the financial assistance to weather this storm. COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon and the federal government has the resources to help state and local jurisdictions.
They received a $10,00 grant from the Public Health Emergency Grant Program (PHEG). They did not apply for the reopening grants available."
Councilmember Hucker called on Maryland’s governor to pull more financial assistance from the state’s "Rainy Day Fund." He also called on Congress to pass a stimulus package.
Hucker also told FOX 5 the county has used over $200 million in pandemic assistance so far, with around $75 million going toward restaurants and small businesses. He said more small business owners need to apply.
In October, Governor Hogan announced a $250 Million ‘Maryland Strong: Economic Recovery Initiative’ from the state’s Rainy Day Fund that the Governor’s office says provided $8.2 million to Montgomery County alone, in order to help businesses like Mrs. K’s.
Mrs. K’s leasing agent says there has been a great deal of interest in the property. The agent told FOX 5 the owners hope to find a restaurant group that will “take the restaurant to the next level.”
Local businesses are renting some of the restaurant’s open space in the meantime, leaving both neighbors and smaller business owners on “pins and needles” as to what might happen with the property next.