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North Country Club closing sparks memories of days gone by

KEESEVILLE Lets go to the Club! For the last 60 years, these words were often spoken in Keeseville, Willsboro, Westport, Peru and surrounding communities words that havent been heard since Sept. 16, when the North Country Club closed its doors. From the moment Peter and Carol Zimmerman Stone announced the restaurants impending closing, customers filled the dining room and bar almost every evening. It was time for us to retire, Carol explained simply. Undoubtedly, many of those people who entered the restaurant during its last two weeks were wondering what life would be like without the place where friends and families had gathered since 1947. The North Country Club will forever be associated with the Chiapplone, Zimmerman and Knox families. Anthony and Stella Chiapplone and their son Fred opened the restaurant in 1947. In 1958, following Stellas passing, the Chiapplones sold the business to Doug and Grace Zimmerman, Dana and Marion Knox and their silent partner, Edwin Knox. Doug and Dana co-managed the business until Danas passing in 1979 and Marion cooked until her retirement in 1990. Marion passed away in 2000. Grace worked behind the scenes overseeing the dining room and Doug managed the business until 2001 when ill health forced him to ask his daughter Carol and her husband Peter for their assistance. Mr. Zimmerman passed away in 2006. When the North Country Club opened its doors in 1947, it was located near the corner of North AuSable and Pleasant streets. Fred, who managed the restaurant while his mother did the cooking, said, As far as I know we were the first restaurant north of Albany to serve pizza. The thin-crusted pizza, with its unique taste, became the restaurants trademark. In 1953, the Chiapplones remodeled the Keeseville-Port Kent train station at 1795 North AuSable St. and made it the new home of the North Country Club. Knotty pine was chosen to cover the restaurants walls, which can still be seen in the restaurants bar area. In 1982, the Fireside Room was added. Many customers loved the Fireside Rooms cozy atmosphere and close proximity to the complimentary dips and chips. Ron and Carol Allen first patronized North Country Club when they were dating in the mid-1950s. We loved the pizza, Mrs. Allen said. When our kids came along and we didnt feel like cooking wed bring the kids to the club, pick up a pizza and bring it home. It was good food, it was affordable and it was a nice family place. Gary and Gerry Finney were club regulars, stopping by at least a couple times a week. Mrs. Finney expressed the universal sentiment of the clubs regular customers saying, Youd always meet your friends at the club. When you went there you always knew somebody. When we were done with the game everybody went to the club and had a pizza, Mrs. Finney said, recalling Friday nights following AuSable Valley sports events. Wed look for the game coverage on the 11 p.m. news. We had wonderful times. Jim and Mary King started coming to club when they were in high school and dined there almost every Friday night. Pizza and prime rib were two of their favorite dinners. Recollecting that the dining rooms knotty pine walls had been covered with paneling, Jim said, People put their initials in it. There are a lot of memories underneath that paneling. Francis (Duke) and Pat Latourelle frequented the club for more than 50 years. During the clubs last week, they bought 24 pizzas to take home and put in the freezer. They still have 20 left. They had better keep that a secret from the Finneys who also bought several pizzas, but, as Gerry said, Needless to say, theyre gone! Waitresses like Veronica Ronnie Miner, who worked at the club for 47 years, and Gladys Rock, who was in her 42nd year when the restaurant closed, will always be remembered. Bartenders Shawn Finnegan and Debbie Kneiper will also not be forgotten. The North Country Club staff and customers hope a buyer will be found and the restaurant will soon be reopened. Everyone said they hope the new owner wont change anything about their beloved club.

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