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One last trip down the buffet line: Hermitage House Smorgasbord says goodbye

One last trip down the buffet line: Hermitage House Smorgasbord says goodbye (FOX 17 News)
One last trip down the buffet line: Hermitage House Smorgasbord says goodbye (FOX 17 News)
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When the Hermitage House Smorgasbord opened in Nashville, Richard Nixon was still president and the U.S. was still at war with Vietnam.

Fifty-two years later, the Smorgasbord is closing.

The line outside before opening tells you something’s up. People with cameras taking pictures and videos. They aren’t capturing vacation memories. They are locals enjoying one last memory. One last trip down the buffet line, and a final goodbye.

The Prosser family has owned the restaurant for 52 years. Three different incarnations and 48 years on Lebanon Pike in Hermitage.

It’s one of the few restaurants open on Christmas day and Thanksgiving – not to make money, but to make people feel like they had somewhere to go.

“That’s what this business was always about. Because we never got rich, and that’s why we are in the business. We’re here to build friendships, relationships, and give back to our community,” said Pete Prosser, one of the four family co-owners.

You can’t talk about this restaurant without talking about the late Margit Prosser.

Mrs. Prosser started this restaurant with her husband Orlin. He stayed in the back. She worked the front.

She greeted customers right up to age 93. The oldest hostess on earth, she was a walking, talking, unstoppable positive force.

“Actually sir, I am a missionary to Americans,” she told FOX 17 News in a 2021 interview. “I try to tell them you live in Christmasland, wake up, somebody said are you ready for Christmas? I have Christmas every day. I live in America.”

You won’t be surprised how much that meant to so many people.

“It has meant everything to me,” a customer said. “It gives me good health, a friendly atmosphere and just gives me courage to even face anything that I face. I love this family.”

ALSO READ | Colorful 93-year-old Nashville hostess came to America & found secret to success: 'Hope'

So why close now? It's just time. No one is getting any younger. As it turns out, 52 years is enough.

“We’re sad, we’re probably going to cry before this day is over. We have been coming every Tuesday for many years,” said Jean Harden.

You may have noticed we didn’t talk about the food. It was good and plentiful, but that's not why people came. It's not the reason the restaurant survived a half-century.

Going out to the Hermitage House Smorgasbord was certainly going out to eat, but more like going to a family member’s house. Where everyone knows your story, knows you, and cares about you.

It turns out the secret ingredient was love. In every dish, every day right up to the last moment.

“What was the real joy? Getting to know people, their families, their children, their grandchildren, learning about their lives. Great friendships, relationships are built to this business,” said Pete Prosser.

One of Margaret Prosser’s favorite sayings was “work hard.” Nobody ever drowned in sweat.

But this week was more tears than sweat.

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