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Kathy Cleveland photo

The sign at Elisha's Restaurant in Milford indicates it will be open on Sunday, but the restaurant will close for good this Saturday.
Friday, August 27, 2010

Landmark family restaurant to close

MILFORD – Elisha’s, a landmark family restaurant on Nashua Street for 36 years, will close its doors for the last time Saturday.

Alex LoVerme , who has owned and managed the restaurant for seven years, said he was not trying to sell the place, but about a week and a half ago, a real estate agent conveyed to him “a good offer that I couldn’t refuse,” he said.

The new owner wants to renovate the place completely and change its name and menu, he said. A Dec. 1 opening is planned.

Business at Elisha’s, which he believes is the oldest continuing full-service restaurant in Milford, has been “up and down,” he said, and was affected by the recession.

And there has been a lot of new competition in recent years, including the opening of Giorgios, Granite Town Tavern and Amigos. “It’s all competition, no matter what they sell,” LoVerme said.

The Wilton native has worked in restaurants since he was 13 and said he will continue catering and is looking to buy a small restaurant and bar.

“I can’t stay out of this business,” he said.

Erin Trubacz of Milford has been waiting tables at Elisha’s for five years, and she is one of about 15 employees who will lose their jobs.

The closing came as a shock.

“But (LoVerme) has to do what’s best for him and his family,” she said.

Trubacz already has another job. A month ago, wanting to supplement her work hours, she applied for a waitstaff job at the Merrimack Homestead Restaurant and Tavern in Merrimack, a new restaurant that’s opening on the former Silos site.

But on Thursday she had to fight to keep from tearing up.

“It was a pleasure to work here,” she said as she took a break from waiting on a large party in the bar area. “I enjoyed all my customers. You work with the same people day after day. It’s a great, close-knit family.”

On Thursday afternoon, about a half dozen men were sitting at the bar.

One of them, Ken Goodine of Lyndeborough, said he is going to miss the place.

“Alex is a long-time friend, and I’ve been a customer for years,” he said. “The staff here is great. There are a lot of local customers, and local business owners hung out here. There’s been a lot of good times.”

“It’s like a wake,” said one man who did not want to give his name. “Everyone knows everyone. It’s like Cheers, like a second home.”

The Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce named Elisha’s its Small Business of the Year in 2007, and after the ice storm of December 2008, Elisha’s prepared meals for hundreds of utility workers dispatched to this area.

The restaurant was opened in 1974 by former Milford residents Norm and Linda Fortier.

Its name comes from Elisha Towne, who in 1770 built the house that forms the main portion of the restaurant.

The Fortiers turned Elisha’s into an area institution, regularly filling the 48-car parking lot.

The restaurant was so popular that at one point the traffic it generated complicated Milford’s plans for the entrance to Kaley Park across the street.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 21, or kcleveland@cabinet.com.