A local family is reopening the Custard King in Astoria.
Tara Gerlitz, her partner, Jeromy Connor, and her mother, Jamie Gerlitz, have leased the small walk-up on Marine Drive and are preparing to open later this month.
Custard King had initially closed in December for the winter season before the owners, who had difficulty managing it from a distance, decided to move on.
The family had been discussing a food cart or brick-and-mortar restaurant for the past several years but were waiting for the right location, said Jamie Gerlitz. When the family spotted the Custard King lease, they decided to take the plunge.
Connor is a commercial fisherman, while the Gerlitzes have experience in the restaurant industry. Jamie Gerlitz previously managed the Old Oregon Smokehouse in Tillamook, while Tara Gerlitz made custom cakes from home. This is the family’s first time as business owners.
The original plan was to replace Custard King with a new restaurant. But over time, the family learned the difficulty of creating new signage in Astoria, along with the built-in brand of Custard King.
“It’s really an iconic part of Astoria,” Tara Gerlitz said. “Since we’ve been here working, people are always stopping by, not even from Astoria, that have heard about the Custard King.”
The restaurant will still offer a similar lineup of burgers, fries and custard, she said. The big change will be more seafood items such as fish tacos, fish and chips and chowder.
Custard King dates back to the early 1950s. Paul and Susan Brost operated the restaurant from 2000 to 2015. They sold the business to a partnership including Greg Glover, owner of Commercial Astoria; Franz Spielvogel, owner of Laughing Planet Cafe; and David Demers, a real estate agent in Portland. The partners restored the purple and pink facade and sign to its current navy blue, white, gray and antique yellow theme. They added new menu items and a custom custard recipe from Spielvogel’s chef at Laughing Planet.
But managing the business from afar while running other operations was challenging, Spielvogel said.
Connor and the Gerlitzes plan to mostly run the restaurant themselves, with the help of close family members and one or two employees.