NORTH ADAMS -- For the last 50 years, members of the Deeb family have been serving up fish fries and onion rings -- a fact siblings and owners Peggy Oleskiewicz and Gordon Deeb plan to celebrate throughout the year.
"While we've expanded the menu over the years, we haven't changed the way we make things. We still do everything the way my parents did when they bought the business," Oleskiewicz, who runs the front end daily, said Wednesday. "My father came up with 90 percent of the menu and my brother began adding to it when he returned to the area in mid-1990s."
She said the family will celebrate the anniversary beginning Saturday at 10 a.m. with an Easter Egg Hunt and an appearance by the Easter bunny.Other activities planned throughout the summer include a geocaching event, a cruise night and a "Just Dance" event for teenagers.
Just weeks into their 50th season, which began Saturday, March 17, Oleskiewicz said customers are already seeking out the eatery's favorites -- fish fries, onion rings, grinders, breaded mushrooms and burgers.
"The fish fry and onion rings are our biggest sellers, but we have a lot of popular items," she said. "People come here because we're an icon. But we believe that people continue to come here because we put out a good product and it's a fun place to come to. People come out in good weather and in bad weather. We've had years when we've opened in mid-March, had a snowstorm, and people are still out there eating in their cars."
But the fish fry hasn't always been on the menu. When Amy and Gordon Deeb purchased the iconic roadside stand from Julio and Rita Pedrin in 1962, it's menu was filled primarily with hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries.
"My father purchased the name because it was already established," Oleskiewicz said. "My father's the one who added the fish fry and onion rings to the menu. "
Each year the menu features a few new items -- some stay and some go, according to kitchen manager Jeff Brassard, 46, who's celebrating his 31st season at the restaurant.
"This year we've added nachos, buffalo chicken wraps and a western burger," he said. "Last year we added salads and sweet potato fries, which have been a big hit."
Sisters Susan Duquette, of Florida, and Barbara Ayotte, of Cheshire, who were treating themselves to onion rings and hot dogs after working out Wednesday afternoon, said they've been patronizing the roadside restaurant since they were small children.
"This is our reward," Ayotte said, holding up an onion ring.
"We used to come here with our parents all of the time," Duquette said. "We come here together every season."
The sisters said they remember swinging on a swing set near the back of the property and running among the large willow trees that used to dot the property.
"There used to be an arcade, too," Duquette said. "It was in a little hut near the back."
Little has changed over the last 50 years in the way the family does business, Oleskiewicz said.
"We did put up a new building," she said. "We needed more room. At the end of 2008, we tore down the old building. The day the building was getting torn down, a woman and her husband were watching the demolition. The woman was sobbing. Her husband finally came over to ask why we were going out of business. We had to reassure her we were just putting up a new building."
Most of the main staff hasn't changed over the years, either. Although Amy and Gordon Deeb have since passed away, Oleskiewicz has been in the kitchen in some respect since her junior year of high school, including when she worked in a local office.
"Jeff's been with us forever," she said. "Both of his sons, Corbin and Scott, work for us, as well as his brother Paul and his nephew Brian [Brassard] and Aaron [Langer]. Brian's been with us for 13 years."
Oleskiewicz added, "We've had two couples who met here and are married. I have kids of kids of kids who work for me. I have kids who start working here in high school and come back every summer during college. We have many doctors and lawyers who have worked here."
Jeff Brassard, who began working in the kitchen as at dishwasher at 14, said he enjoys every minute of the job.
"It's fun and we keep it light," he said. "It's like a big family. You have kids who come, work for you, move on and come back 10 years later with their kids. It's a family business, but it truly is a family here."