AVON-BY-THE-SEA — The Schneider family is "devastated" by the fire that destroyed its 57-year-old restaurant early Saturday morning.

Johann "John" Schneider, 74, told NJ.com that once he arrived at the restaurant on Saturday morning it was like watching a movie when he saw all the firefighters working to put out the three-alarm fire.

"You look at it and you walk around, and it's surreal and devastating," he told the newspaper. He described the damage as "extensive."

In a post on its Facebook page, the restaurant thanked the fire companies that responded to the blaze. "Due to major damage, however, we will be closed for the immediate future until we can rebuild," the restaurant wrote in the post.

Schneider told the NJ.com the family needs to look closer at the remains before making a final decision on rebuilding.

Avon Fire Chief Joe Gentile told ABC 7 Eyewitness News that the age of the building made the fire difficult to put out.

Avon-by-the-Sea police Chief Terence Mahon told the news site the fire does not appear to be suspicious and no one was injured fighting the fire. Mahon has not yet returned messages to NJ 101.5.

According to its website, Schneider's opened in Newark in 1960 as an ice cream parlor named Stubbe's and then Brinkmann's. It was relocated to Avon-By-The-Sea in 1970 as a full service restaurant serving "old world" dishes from Germany and Hungary.

Longtime customers of Schneider's shared memories of the restaurant upon hearing about the fire.

"We became good friends with the Schneiders through the hot air ballooning community. We would make it a point to drive to Avon-by-the Sea from Hillsborough, just to say hi and have a good meal. I remember his homemade pumpkin ice cream," Ruth Standley said. "It wasn’t just the food but the warm friendship of Johann, Bev, 'Mom,' and the staff that made the trip worthwhile."

Alice Irizarry said she and her late husband used to go there for hot air balloon meetings as well. "My brother and I had been trying to stop by but had not yet been able to. I feel very sad."

"The last time I dined there was about four years ago with my sister-in-law. I was just talking to one of my other sisters about visiting Schneiders. We both studied German in high school and planned to share a nice German meal together soon. I loved the hot air balloon theme, the license plates hanging on the dark wood walls, the friendly service and authentic food that was always delicious," Viveca Graham said.

Share a memory about Schneider’s by contacting reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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