By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
Residents of Avon and surrounding shore towns are feeling the loss this week of a landmark restaurant, Schneider’s on Main Street in Avon.
The restaurant, which stood at the head of Sylvan Lake between Avon and Bradley Beach for 48 years, was a staple of the shore, especially for those of German heritage.
Owner John “Johann” Schneider said his mother Theresa cried when he called her to give her the news.
Schneider said he, himself, is still “in shock” and has not decided whether he will rebuild and reopen the restaurant.
He was meeting with insurance agents Tues., Oct. 24 and said after the damage is assessed he will have to make a decision.
“There are specialists here to figure out what the loss is. I’m still in shock,” he said.
Schneider also said his mother, who is in her 90s, was “devastated.”
He was forced to tell her over the phone after he and his wife Beverly had arrived on the scene of the fire from their home in West Windsor Township at about 5:20 a.m. Sat., Oct. 21.
Police, he said, told him that news trucks were on the scene and the officer did not want
Mrs. Schneider to hear the news first on TV.
“I called her and she cried; I wasn’t there to hug her,” he said.
Schneider said he was home when he got a call that the burglar alarm in the restaurant’s dining room went off at about 4:18 a.m. Sat., Oct. 21.
He told the alarm company to call police, but they soon called back and said police and firefighters were already on the scene.
“You have a working fire, they told me. I said alright we’re coming and me and my wife got in the car,” he said.
“They did an excellent job. There were 80 guys walking around in gear; they had pretty much knocked it down,” he said. “And nobody got hurt, I was so happy.”
Schneider also said Belmar’s fire department brought its ladder truck which helped extinguish the roof fire and Wanamassa brought its foam truck and sprayed the areas that were still smoking.
Schneider was also touched by the outpouring of affection and concern from customers, residents and the business community.
“On Saturday so many people came by. I got so many hugs and kisses. I haven’t been hugged that much since I was a baby,” he said.
He also said he received many Facebook postings and emails of support and concern.
“I’m still thinking, it’s a dream, a little nightmare I had. Then I wake up and…” he said.
Schneider said several merchants and businesses offered their help, with the owner of Vic’s Pizza offering freezer space and Norwood Inn owners offering their kitchen for a special event Schneider had planned with his hot air ballooning group.
Firefighter and Borough Commissioner Frank Gorman, who was on the scene of the fire, said as far as he knows this was the most serious fire in Avon since the 1978 Avon Inn fire.
“Everyone loved Schneider’s,” he said. “It is the oldest continuous business. The town will support them like they have supported the community all these years.”
Gorman said the fire has been ruled accidental by Avon Fire Official Tony Vecchio and the Monmouth County Fire Marshall.
“There was no sign of forced entry,” he said.
He also said it was a three alarm fire with mutual aid from neighboring towns including Neptune City, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Neptune Township, Wall Township and Ocean Township.
Gorman said firefighters had the fire under control and left the scene at about 10:30 a.m.
He also said in his opinion the structure is not totally destroyed.
“Most of the damage was in the counter area and some of the roof. The kitchen and the main dining area had smoke and heat damage,” he said. “In firefighter talk, this was a very good stop.”
Speaking of the Schneiders, Gorman said, “He and his mother have been outstanding supporters of emergency responders.”
Mayor John Magrini said both his wife and his sister sold ice cream at Schneider’s when they were in school.
“I’ve known the Schneider’s all my life, growing up in town,” he said. “I’m saddened by the closing of this long standing business in town…I hate to see it end this way.”