Sholl's Colonial Cafeteria last night served its last supper, packed up its patented cardboard signs ("Religion and patriotism make this a fine place to work") and locked the door on a half century in the old La Salle building at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW.
The cafeteria's famous cheap, home-style food, together with signs, the plastic-flowered portrait of the Modonna and Child, and the waitress with their handkerchief corsages, will all be reincarnated Monday at a new location at 20th and K streets NW, the manager said last night.
But many associated with the place, both customers and employes, felt that this was somehow one feast that should not be moved.
"I'm just thankful to God our people have a place to go," said Evan Andrew Sholl, 79, who founded the restaurant and turned it into a Washington institution with his personal mix of business and Catholic values.
Sholl said the move is necessary because the La Salle will soon be razed and replaced by a commercial complex. For more than 30 years, Sholl's also has operated a second cafeteria at Vermont Avenue and K Street NW, which will remain open at the location.
The last of 1o children in a Pennsylvania farm family, Sholl says he got religion late in life, one morning about 30 years ago while he was shaving.
He has put his belief's into practice, his friends say, by heavy donations to charity, by keeping his prices low, and by sharing his profits bountifully with his employes.
"Last year some of our dishwashers made $225 a week. And every employe wound up with 12 weeks worth of bonus pay in the course of the year," said the cafeteria's manager, Joseph Fajfar (pronounced Feiffer), who has been with Sholl for 33 years.
The ambience at Sholl's is anti-chic. Columnist Art Buchwald, who dined there after a falling out with his regular luncheon hosts at the Sans Sourci, described it once to a reporter as "neutral territory," not in contention as his next choice for steady patronage.
Behing the ling counters, waitress bark like top sergeants to move patrons along at a brisk clip, shoving plates of food at them. Finding a table during crowded peak hours can require more brass than getting a taxi in the rain. It is traditional at Sholl's that strangers share tables.
The clientele remains as varied as the menu - a blend of office workers and elderly pensioners plus the occasional millionaire of politician. A blind man with a guide dog is a regular, at a table near the door. What they all have in common is a craving for a good meal at a cheap price.
Sholl insists that the food be ordered fresh daily, and cooked in small batches.
Yesterday, Sholl's was selling beef stew for $1.05, all-beef chopped steak for $1, premium calf's liver for 75 cents, coffee for 20 cents, an egg any style for 20 cents and an assortment of homemade pies starting at 40 cents a slice.
Some customers have braced themselves for a rise in prices at the new location, but, said Fajfar, "we don't expect anything more than a very slight adjustment. We will have a physical layout there that will maintain our efficiency."
"We'll keep things the same, all the way," said Sholl, who stopped by the Connecticut Avenue location for a fine meal there yesterday, after taking his wife of 53 years to the dentist.
"All I know is what I started with and that's you have to be of service to three [groups of] people - your employes, the people you buy from, and your customers. I've always felt it's better to be a steward than a captain."
On Friday, a group of local tap dancers dressed in black will mourn the move by dancing in front of what they termed the "Washington landmark." CAPTION: Picture 1, Manager Joseph Fajfar stands in front of Sholl's Colonial Cafeteria, which is moving after 52 years; Picture 2, Customers dine on Sholl's last day of service at its Connecticut Ave. cafeteria. Photos by John McDonnell - The Washington Post