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Earl's is closing its doors once again; Popular restaurant to shut down after it runs out of food

Earl's Real Food Family Restaurant, a popular regional destination for down-home cooking, is expected to close this week after more than half a century in business.

The Chaffee landmark's unpretentious and affordable menu, along with live country music, made it a lasting hit with diners, near and far.

"It's a hard loss," said Dennis Kollander of Holland, who has been an Earl's customer the past 50 years. "The place is an institution, generations of kids grew up there. And I can only imagine the hundreds of people who have worked there over all these years."

This will be the restaurant's second closing in the past four years.

Owner Earl Northrup retired in late 2007 but returned to the business in early 2008 by popular demand.

"Everybody pestered him so much he actually reopened," Kollander said.

This time, the restaurant is shutting down because of undisclosed "personal reasons," an employee said Monday.

"We'll close when we run out of food, which will be in a few days," she added.

Northrup, who is in his late 70s, was unavailable to comment.

He started the business in 1956 with his wife, Marilyn.

Earl's began as a hot dog stand, and it grew into a 150-seat establishment with 37 employees and five-dozen menu offerings.

Kollander, 68, and his wife dined on chicken wings Saturday at Earl's.

"The chicken wings are like turkey wings -- biggest wings you can get," he said. "I like the homemade pies too. It's like going to grandma's house. And you always got your money's worth; you order soup,and it's a large bowl, like your mama would give you, homemade with large pieces of vegetables."

The Northrups logged long hours and the business grew, as customers from Western New York, Pennsylvania and beyond, filled the seats.

Buffalo Bills and Sabres fans dropped in for meals on their way to and from the games.

A site behind the restaurant became a park for country-music concerts.

"A lot of the country-western stars used to come to Earl's and play," said Kollander, who saw Loretta Lynn, Boxcar Willie and other artists perform at restaurant jamborees.

Marilyn died in 2002.

Kollander last saw Northrup, who was known for shooting the breeze with diners, a couple of weeks ago.

But he learned of the restaurant closing while dining there Saturday -- maybe his last at Earl's.

"It's sad," he said.

"If you didn't want to cook, going there was like getting a home-cooked meal. I don't know where I'm going to go now."