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Last Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips restaurant celebrates 50 years in Cuyahoga Falls

At one point, there were more than 800 stores across the United States. But today, one lone restaurant remains, and it's right here in Summit County.

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Bend, Oregon, is home to the last Blockbuster video store in the world. It has become a nostalgic mecca, with people coming from far and wide to experience something from their past in the only place they can. 

More than 2,000 miles away stands another last of its kind: the final free-standing Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips.

The Arthur Treacher's restaurant franchise was born in Columbus in 1969, and was named after a popular British character actor of the time. The concept quickly expanded, due in large part to a vibrant advertising campaign. But more importantly, it was just good fish.

At one point, there were more than 800 stores across the United States. But today, one lone restaurant remains, and it's right here in Cuyahoga Falls.

Ben Vittoria, owner of this last bastion of hushpuppy heaven, says people's love of the food is a result of the work that goes into it. He says the secret to frying good fish is all about the ingredients.

"There are several, but the most important thing is that you have to have a good quality oil, and we use 90% vegetable oil has to be changed regularly," he said. "You know, I have no qualms in bringing customers or people that want to see our operation in the back."

This summer also marks this location's 50th year in business. Vittoria says he's watched generations share meals together here.

"I guess there's this nostalgic view of reliving perhaps a simpler past," he told us, "and I see them bringing their children and grandchildren and wanting to sample, you know, memories."

Being "the last" of something comes with it's share of pressure, but also recognition. The city of Cuyahoga Falls recently declared June 30 to be "Arthur Treacher's Day," and Mayor Don Walters says it's an honor to be home to this location.

"I brag all day long," Walters gushed. "In fact, this is the only place you can come that's a tourist attraction. We're really proud to have them in Cuyahoga Falls."

Vittoria credits the hard work and marketing of his employees like Manager Christian Burden, who balances fish frying with his studies at the University of Akron.

"It started out when I was in high school [and I was] 15 1/2, and I've kind of just grown to the top," Burden recalled. "It's a great environment. [Vittoria]'s taken care of me the last eight years."

That's eight years of seeing first hand the love people have for this food.

"Just last night, we had somebody who literally came from New York," he said. "There was a husband and wife, and they literally said, 'We came here. We're retired. We came here just to eat lunch.'"

But of course, the biggest question is: Does the food still taste like the Arthur Treacher's that we grew up loving?

"Yes," Vittoria declared. "That is one of the things that we pride ourselves on, is that I have maintained the original recipes. We have not changed anything."

There's a lot of pressure when you're the last of your kind; the collective memory of a generation of fish lovers is relying upon you to stay open and maintain that link to our past. But should this final Treacher's ever pull up anchor and batten down their hatches for good, it won't be because the hushpuppies aren't on point. 

Just a tip: Go heavy on the malt vinegar.

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