100 Years and still going strong
Harry’s place has been an integral part of the Colchester landscape for a full century. It is often described as an institution, with its success and longevity serving as a testimonial to the power of family, teamwork and traditional simple American food.
Harry’s Place was opened in 1920 under the namesake Harry Schmuckler, and was located in Crestwood Plaza on Main Street, across the street from the Colchester Town green. In the late 1920’s, the restaurant was moved to the corner of Lebanon Ave and South Main, also across from the town green. Rubin “Ruby “Cohen, a teenage employee of Harry Schmuckler, quit school and bought Harry’s Place in the 1930’s. Cohen went on to become one of the longest serving members of the Connecticut General Assembly, a 40-year run lasting into the 1970’s. He operated the seasonal restaurant between legislative sessions, while also politicking from behind the counter. His reputation as a fierce political power broker lives on to this day.
In the early 1940’s, Harry’s Place was relocated yet again, just down the street a couple hundred yards, to the present location. Ruby and his children operated Harry’s Place for several more decades. In 1978 Ruby sold Harry’s Place to John and Romilda Garet, and a new chapter for Harry’s Place had begun.
For the past 41 years, the Garet family has operated and continues to operate the restaurant today. While both the town and restaurant have changed with the times, the family tradition has remained.
As the new owner in 1978, John Garet, a self-made business man, continued Ruby’s family tradition. Both Ruby and John were blessed with 5 children, and like Ruby, John’s children became integral parts of Harry’s Place. All 5 of John’s children began working at the restaurant with him in 1978. After John’s passing in 1983, his oldest daughter Laura began operating the restaurant with her husband Bill. After 3 challenging and successful seasons, they seamlessly passed the torch to James Neville and his wife Romilda Garet-Neville. A new Harry’s Place era had begun yet again.
Jim Neville served as the operator of Harry’s Place from 1986 until his passing in 1999. He served as the bridge from the past to the present, taking a restaurant described as both an institution and a hot dog stand boldly into the future, while remaining true to Harry’s historical roots.
As the town and restaurant continued to grow, change was inevitable. In 1994, Jim embarked on a monumental journey. As the need for more space in the restaurant became obviously apparent, Jim designed and implemented a physical expansion of the building, tripling the restaurant space. While physically changing the building size, he was aware that Harry’s represented a sense of nostalgia for many long-time patrons and town residents. He was careful to keep the front face of the building intact and looking the same. The restaurant had been added to the National Historic Registry several years earlier, and he took great care to honor that tradition. Harry’s was now able to meet the needs of an expanding future, while maintaining the look and traditions of the past.
Following Jim’s passing in 1999, Harry’s entered yet another transitory period. Beginning that year, John Garet and his sister Suzanne, the Brother and Sister team, took over the operational duties. We proudly continued Jim’s legacy, with John as the General Manager, and Suzanne as the Business Manager. Together we continue to manage the restaurant today.
Following in the footsteps of the tireless titans who ran Harry’s the previous 80 years presented many challenges. Fortunately for John and Suzanne they had a lot of help, including many long-term loyal employees. These include 40-year veteran employee and current manager Katrinka Morgan, as well as 20 year sleep deprived morning manager Sue Turner.
In addition to the long list of exceptional employees, John and Suzanne’s siblings Jennifer and Laura also contributed. They worked at and ran satellite locations in both Norwich and Rocky Hill. Another sibling, Elena, the family attorney, expertly managed the legal needs of the business.
Today, Romilda Garet - Neville continues to run the business office, keeping everyone focused and on point. As we prepare for the 100th season of Harry’s Place, many of Romilda’s grandchildren have now become an important part of the Harry’s team success. Our family looks forward to serving our loyal customers for the next 100 years. We are grateful and realize that without you, Harry's Place would not be what it is today.
The Garet Family