Gino Buffone, owner of Glitter’s Fun Eatery in Chatham, looks at one of the many movie and TV posters to adorn the walls of the restaurant. Glitters turns 30 next month, and Buffone said the restaurant will offer customer appreciation specials to celebrate a little early, Aug. 18-24 to be exact.
Gino Buffone looks fondly at many of the movie and TV posters that adorn the walls of his restaurant, Glitters Fun Eatery. But none hold him the way his picture of the cast of M*A*S*H* does.
And with good reason. The same year the show came to an end, 1983, Buffone and his wife, Judy, started their restaurant.
It’s been nearly 30 years since they opened Movieola Café on King Street in Chatham. In fact, Buffone was one of the founders of that franchise.
But he left Movieola after two years to go on his own, retaining the movie décor concept.
Included in the décor is his photograph of the M*A*S*H* characters.
“I’ve been offered hundreds of dollars for that poster, which I will never part with,” he said.
While M*A*S*H* may be a memory immortalized in a poster and in syndicated reruns, Glitters remains a mainstay in Chatham’s downtown. But it has certainly evolved.
“Over the years, we’ve changed our focus from a bar atmosphere to a family-style restaurant,” Buffone said.
Glitters’ patrons evolved right along with the restaurant.
“Our customer base is extremely loyal, he said. “We’re now seeing third-generation customers coming in. It’s probably most rewarding for me to see grandparents coming in with their grandkids.”
Tim and Deb Mifflin have been dedicated customers over the years. Deb said it evolved from visits of less than once a month to a weekly endeavor.
“Back in the early years, we certainly didn’t go out every week for dinner, but over the years, we started going every Friday night.”
Tim said they grew to know the Buffones, not just Gino and Judy.
“We know their kids. A friendship has been developed over the years as well.”
To reward such customer loyalty, Buffone has a few plans in the works. The actual 30th-anniversary date is Sept. 23, but Buffone said he wanted to run a customer appreciation week in August so post-secondary kids can be part of it before they return to school.
As a result, From Aug. 18-24, Glitters will hold customer appreciation days. Each day, certain menu items will be heavily discounted.
On one of those days – Aug. 20 – Buffone is turning back the clock on chicken wings, which will be offered at 30 cents apiece.
“That’s way below our cost. But wings were a big thing with us when we first started out,” he said. “Over the years, I think we’ve sold more than 1.5 million wings.”
Thirty years in the food and beverage industry as an owner can be very taxing on a person. There are long hours, many late at night. But Buffone credits his wife with being very supportive. She used to oversee the kitchen.
He said he’s also learned to pace himself and work the hours where he’s needed most.
“It started off as a lot of hours, but as the staff grew in knowledge and experience, you can know when you’re needed most,” he explained. “It’s still a lot of hours, but it’s enjoyable.”
The easiest way to make Buffone smile is to come in for a bite to eat and run into old friends.
“On a Friday night, I’ll see customers come in the back door and before they get to the front, they’ll have visited five or six tables of friends. It’s great,” he said.
The Mifflins know all about the familiar faces. Deb said they go there and usually know more than half the patrons in Glitters. She referred to people they only encounter at the restaurant as their “Glitter friends.”
Through the years, Buffone has experienced the big box store drain on the downtown, felt the pain of recessions, and is still around to enjoy the early stages of resurgence in the core.
“I feel the downtown is on the upswing,” he said. “I’m very, very anxious to see what is going to happen with all the development plans.
“I really admire those people for doing what they’re doing,” he added, referring to the likes of Victor Boutin and Dan Warrener for their efforts to bring upscale living into the downtown again.