By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The last man standing is now leaving.
Pig & Prince restaurant owner and chef Mike Carrino announced on Facebook that he would be closing down the restaurant that has been housed in the historic Lackawanna Plaza waiting station for the last seven years.
“It is with great sadness that we must announce Pig & Prince will be closing its doors after service on Saturday, June 8. We have created so many lasting relationships and friendships over the years and we want to thank each and every one of you for your loyalty and support. We hope to see you here at this historic landmark one last time before we say goodbye,” Carrino wrote.
In 2012, Carrino took over the place, lovingly restoring the old train station’s former glory with exposing brick walls, vaulted and sky-lit ceilings, the original chandeliers and tiled floors that were revealed after Carrino lifted the purple rugs left from its days as a Blockbuster Video.
Over the last few years he has weathered on through impending redevelopment plans by Pinnacle and Hampshire Cos. who bought the former Lackawanna Station property in 2014. He sat through many of the 16 planning board hearings that covered the details of the developers’ plans to build 154 housing units, a 29,000-square-foot supermarket, and 111,726 square feet of office space, including a medical office, and retail space at the 7.5-acre site.
In May, the planning board memorialized its decision to allow for the development.
Although the planning board placed a restriction on the preservation of the train waiting area into perpetuity, it allowed for the demolition of train platforms now housed in the mall and connected to the Pig & Prince.
The property is on the New Jersey and national historical registry, and is located in a historical district. Recently Perseveration New Jersey declared the 1913 train station one of 10 New Jersey’s most endangered historic properties.
Carrino could not be reached for comment, but in an interview with Montclair Local last July he voiced concerns with how the restaurant would survive with the possibility of no electricity and bulldozers during construction.
He discussed his opening of the restaurant in 2012, when the 90,000-square foot mall was 100 percent occupied with shoe, jewelry and toy stores, a Radio Shack, a hair salon, the Pathmark grocery and more.
Within 18 months of his opening however, the Pig & Prince, Popeyes and a pizza joint were all that was left, he said.
Years of abandonment and non-movement on the redevelopment have taken a toll.
“There’s a bad perception here,” he said last year.
In the parking lot, the horse trough — used by the horses who brought riders to the train station in buggies in the days before automobiles — sits covered in graffiti with no one bothering to remove it.
Last year he told Montclair Local he was determined to hold out. But things have apparently changed. Notably, a 30-square-foot victory garden out front that Carrino planted in years’ past to add to culinary creations is now overtaken by weeds.
Inside the Pig & Prince on Wednesday, guests dined at tables and lined the bar under the original vaulted terracotta ceilings.
The pride Carrino took in the history of the building is apparent. Removed drop ceilings reveal original chandeliers that hang from soaring heights. The station’s original water fountain and paper cup shelves are tucked between two tables. One of the benches used by travelers for almost a century is against a wall in the back room, and the bar footrest is a re-purposed rail line stamped with “Lackawanna 1912.”
On the wall at the entrance of the Pig & Prince hangs the original proclamation presented by then-Montclair Mayor Ernest Hinck to the president of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Co., William Truesdale, in 1913 at the opening of the train terminal. The document, with its gold leaf, was created by Ames & Rollinson, the oldest calligraphy studio in the nation. Although Carrino wouldn’t say how, he was able to locate the document and restore it.
A New York Times article that covered the half-million-dollar Lackawanna Station’s opening quoted Truesdale it as, “A pleasure unlooked for, to be so well-received.”
There’s a lot of history to the building. The reason the Pig & Prince is at an angle is that It was constructed to allow the sun’s movement to fill the vast room with light from sun up to sun down. The station’s architect, William Hull Botsford, died in 1912 on the Titanic at age 28.
Appropriately, Montclair ended its 150th celebration with a gala at the Pig & Prince in December.