Brookfield’s iconic Hearth restaurant to close

Photo of Julia Perkins

BROOKFIELD —The Hearth restaurant will close its doors Sunday after half a century as one of the town’s most popular eateries.

The iconic Federal Road restaurant, which opened in the ‘60s, has been a favorite spot for family gatherings, said Betsy Paynter, economic and community development manager. She recalled eating there with her mother and grandparents growing up.

“It’s been a cornerstone for generations in Brookfield, which has been something Brookfield is very proud of,” she said.

Bob Lehner has owned the restaurant for about 30 years. But he said decades of working nights, weekends and holidays have gotten to be too much, and he wants to spend more time with his family.

“You kind of have to make a choice at some point,” he said. “It's either going to be the restaurant or the family.”

First Selectman Steve Dunn said he will be sorry to see the restaurant close.

“The Hearth has been an institution for Brookfield and it’s going to be sorely missed,” he said.

While other restaurants have struggled and failed, Lehner’s business has stood the test of time, Paynter said.

“Kudos to Bob and his family for having such a great restaurant for years,” she said. “They had a great model for success.”

Dunn said he has heard from residents who have been going to the restaurant for nearly 40 years.

“Their food is very good and they have a very loyal clientele,” he said.

Lehner said customers have flooded into the restaurant over the past few days to order one last meal before the closing. Ordinarily, the restaurant serves 70 to 80 people at night, but recently have had more than 100 diners.

The restaurant is well-known for its soup and prime rib, Paynter said. Dunn said his favorite is the scrod.

“All of their food is delicious,” Paynter said. “It’s standing through time.”

Lehner has sold the building, but does not know what the new owner will use it for.

Paynter said whoever moves in will reap the benefits of the Brookfield Town Center revitalization project. Late last year, the town finished installing sidewalks and other amenities at the intersection known as the Four Corners, less than a quarter-mile from The Hearth.

The town is designing a second phase of streetscape that will extend to the site of The Hearth. Sidewalks will run past the property once the project reaches the fourth phase. The town already secured funding for the second phase and hopes to begin construction in spring 2019.

The project is meant to attract businesses and housing to downtown, while making the area pedestrian-friendly.

And The Hearth building is at the heart of it.

“With the development, all the opportunity in Brookfield Town Center, the parcel, obviously, is our gateway into the town center coming off of the [Route 7] exit,” Paynter said. “It has a prominent location. It’s an ideal location for office, retail, restaurant, whatever.”