CANANDAIGUA — When word got out early last week that the Rheinblick German Restaurant was closed, even Markus Hardt said he was surprised at the volume of messages he and his brother received.
Hardt and Mike Klemens, sons of the restaurant’s owners Gary and Gudrun Klemens, said customers were saddened and wished they could have enjoyed just one more visit to the restaurant at 224 S. Main St., which had become a staple of downtown in the 13 years since it opened.
“I wasn’t surprised that people were disappointed, I was humbled by the amount of people who actually reached out and expressed that to us,” said Hardt, who is the oldest son and a lieutenant in the Fishers Fire Department. “That was a big motivating factor for me to meet with my parents and say we’re not ready to let this go.”
The brothers will take over the restaurant from their parents, and they plan to have a grand reopening Friday, Sept. 10.
That didn’t seem likely Aug. 16, when the Klemenses announced the closing on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Hardt said his parents had retired to Florida and were operating a restaurant there, Rhein-Stube German Restaurant, although they were still running the Rheinblick. But with all of the COVID-19 related issues of running the business that last 18 months – from closing to new and changing regulations and restrictions to staffing – they were looking to get out of the business, at least in New York, Hardt said.
“When they made the decision to do so, my brother and I just felt like we were not ready to be done with Rheinblick,” Hardt said. “Here we are, working on reopening.”
Hardt, who was born in Germany in 1982 and came to Canandaigua in the sixth grade, and Mike Klemens have worked off and on at the restaurant since its opening in October 2008, busing, hosting and whatever else was needed. Hardt’s wife Stormy was a server, which is how they met 12 years ago.
Hardt will handle the day-to-day operations while his brother will do the business side of it.
A lot of the old staff is returning, which Hardt said is a nice vote of confidence, although some of the people had naturally moved on after learning of the closing.
“My parents always put a lot of value on having the best customer service, the best customer experience possible,” Hardt said. “That’s something we definitely want to continue.”
Mike Klemens, who was born in Germany in 1988 and works as sourcing and procurement director at Equitable, a large retirement and insurance provider, said the emphasis will remain on traditional old-world German recipes and meals. For instance, the restaurant offered such traditional German fare as kartoffelpuffers (potato pancakes) with applesauce, bratwurst, nürnberger — an alternate-style bratwurst — and pork jägerschnitze, lightly breaded pork cutlets in a mushroom-based gravy and served over noodles.
Desserts included apple strudel and black forest cake. His wife, Christina, worked at the restaurant as a server and master baker, learning many of the dessert recipes from Gudrun Klemens herself.
German wine and beer will continue to be offered, although Hardt said local craft beers and Finger Lakes wines, particularly Rieslings, will join the menu.
“Growing up in Germany, I have a lot of love for the country, the culture and the food,” Hardt said. “Seeing how much the community liked the restaurant, it really became a part of my life and a nice continuation of the German culture. I’ve always had an interest in taking it over someday. I didn’t think it would be this soon.”
Hardt said his parents were disappointed in closing Rheinblick because it meant the end of an era, but living in Florida, owning a restaurant there and being of retirement age, coupled with the pandemic, made for a challenge here.
Now, they are happy and super supportive of the brothers’ decision.
“They’re happy it’s staying in the family,” Hardt said. “It was tough for them to make that decision, but once we stepped up, I think it was a weight off their shoulders to know that they weren’t letting everybody down, there was a chance to continue this.”
Includes reporting by Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Reporter Marcia Greenwood.
Former Rheinblick owners Gary and Gudrun Klemens are joined at Rhein-Stube German Restaurant in Port Orange, Florida, by daughter Melissa O’Bryan, who is the only family member involved in all aspects of Rheinblick continuously since day one. Tony Bellis, the accomplished Rheinblick chef, has transplanted to Port Orange as well.