Gerard Turkey Farm Plans to Close

(NECN: Peter Howe, Framingham, Mass.) Gerard's Turkey Farm is a place that takes you back to the days Framingham was known as a little town in the country, not a giant shopping mall. But this coming Thanksgiving -- its 70th -- could well be its last.

Drowning in debt after a months-long road construction project gridlocked Water Street and drove away three-quarters of its business, Gerard's has decided to shut down after delivering several hundred cooked turkeys on thanksgiving, according to third-generation owner Michael Gerard.

Customers are heartbroken. Friday found Framingham native Bert Rendell and his mom, Bonnie Trudell -- who now lives in north Georgia -- at Gerard's for a hot open-faced turkey sandwich. It was their very first stop after Bonnie arrived from the airport at the Logan Express depot.

Rendell said he loves the home cooking. "Everything's chains. This is one of the few family-owned places left around here. Every year, there's less and less.''

Besides fresh-cooked turkeys and chickens, pies, salad dressing, and prepared dinners, one of Gerard's most famous offerings is the Turkey Deluxe, sometimes called "Thanksgiving in a sandwich'' -- turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce between two slices of wheat bread.

Betty Gerard, who is the mother of Michael and daughter-in-law of the founder, said the shop counts on lunchtime customers for 60 to 70 percent of its business. During all the repaving, which snarled traffic from July to October, "It's hard for people to get here for lunch because they're tied up in the traffic. They only have an hour lunch, and it takes them more than an hour to get to and from'' the shop from work.

"We kept hoping there would be a turnaround,'' Gerard said.

But it didn't come. And with debts piling up, back taxes, and unpaid utility bills, Michael Gerard decided the time had come to shut the business at the end of the month.

"I don't like to see these kinds of places go out of business,'' said Jim Pyne of neighboring Hopkinton, who came in for lunch Friday. "Home cooking, good quality, nice people.''

Bert Rendell said, "It's basically an institution. I'll be real sorry to see it go.''

Betty Gerard still prays somehow it won't go, though she doesn't know exactly what could save the business at this point. "There's always hope, and maybe a miracle will happen. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.''

With videographer Daniel J. Ferrigan

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