The owners of the Russian Tea House in St. Paul are closing their restaurant for good on Saturday after 40 years in business.
Husband-and-wife team Linda and Nikolai Alenov announced last week on the restaurant's Facebook page that they were ready to retire.
They want to slow down after Nikolai began to deal with a heart condition earlier this year.
An outpouring of support online followed and continued in person on Friday afternoon, when the Alenovs wound down to their last couple of lunch shifts.
"It just brought tears to my eyes," Nikolai Alenov said. "To have the response from hundreds of people from years ago saying how they enjoyed our food — that was my goal."
Customers formed a long line outside of the restaurant on University Avenue to buy the last poppy seed rolls and other popular Russian pastries.
• Appetites: Mapping restaurants along the Green Line
Julie Sieber of Arden Hills used to work down the street many years ago. Seiber said the neighborhood has changed a lot but the Russian Tea House has managed to keep its popularity and charm.
"It's like something you would see in a village," Sieber said. "It's something you can't get anywhere else so that makes it special."
Most customers who described the Russian Tea House as "homey" knew that it was actually a family home that belonged to Nikolai Alenov's father. He made a gift of it to the couple decades ago.
"We were starving artists desperate for work," Nikolai Alenov said.
The couple turned the downstairs into a restaurant and lived upstairs for many years.
They raised two children during what were some of the most hectic times Linda Alenov can remember, but customers always understood.
"I would be interrupted a million times and people have always been very kind and loving," she said. "They feel more like friends and family, honestly."
Linda Alenov spent the final days in the restuarant personally packing and ringing up hundreds of orders. She gave each customer a hug.
The future of the house in uncertain. The Alenovs said they were grandfathered over the years with changing codes, but the Minnesota Department of Health likely would not allow another restaurant to be in the current space.
As Nikolai Alenov's health improves, he is considering writing a cookbook.