|By Debbie Gardner|
WEST SPRINGFIELD When B'Shara's Restaurant opened its doors on Riverdale Street on Dec. 3, 1980, there were a mere five eateries on that now-bustling strip of road.
"There was the Ivanhoe, a Burger King, McDonald's, Bickfords, and Abdow's," said George B'Shara, one of the two B'Shara brothers who founded the Riverdale St. restaurant.
Today, several of those original five eateries are gone. And in their place more than a dozen restaurants many with the power of nationally-know names such as Outback Steakhouse and Bertucci's vie for diners' dollars.
But despite the changing restaurant landscape, B'Shara's has continued to find a niche among local dines.
And on Dec. 3 of this year, B'Shara's proudly celebrated its 26th anniversary by inviting friends, special customers, and business associates to an open house to show off the restaurant's newly renovated dining room and expanded menu.
Reminder Publications asked Gary B'Shara, youngest son of founding brother Phillip B'Shara, who passed away several years ago, why he felt his family's restaurant continued to draw customers in such a crowded dining landscape.
"We try to keep up with the changes in diner's tastes, change with the times, " B'Shara said, referring to the restaurant's recent move to made-to-order station-style grill, salad and pasta menu offerings in addition to its deli sandwich and homestyle meals. "It's more in keeping with what today's diner is looking for."
But B'Shara was quick to point out that the newly redecorated restaurant hasn't forgotten the cafeteria-style roots that made it an icon on Riverdale Street.
"But, to please the older customers, we've also kept a selection of the comfort foods the meatloaf, the chicken pot pie that made us."
B'Shara also said the family touch one of the B'Shara family is always on the premises to oversee things makes a difference to customers, many of whom have become friends over the years.
"We're here, we're family, we're always here," he said, referring to the rotating shifts family members fill to ensure everything goes right at every meal breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. (breakfast only) on Sunday.
In talking about the restaurant's history, B'Shara said that the Riverdale location is actually the second home of his family's eatery. His grandfather, B'Shara B'Shara opened what originally was an ice cream shop across from Bosh manufacturing, on the corner of Grace and Main Street, in 1945. The shop quickly expanded to include a deli and cafeteria. B'Shara's relocated to Riverdale Street in 980 following a fire at the Main Street location.