"Before it became the Chat-a-Whyle, it was the Jenkins's Tea Room operated by Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, and their two daughters, Martha and Viola. Located at 28 Liberty Street, it was a high-class restaurant with cloth table cloths and napkins and silver-plated dinnerware. Sometime during the 1930's, the name was changed to the Chat A Wyle Tea Room.
In June 1941, it was purchased by Floyd "Popeye" Margeson and his wife, Liz. Their two children, Phyliss and Robert Margeson, also worked at the restaurant. In the beginning, it was open 24 hours a day in order to take advantage of the movie theater evening trade, the railroad travelers between destinations, as well as, local patrons. The Chat A Wyle featured homemade baked goods, and soon became a popular place to eat. During the War, Popeye was drafted into service, and Liz ran the restaurant with the help of her two children. It was difficult because of rationing, but local farmers helped out. It was during that time that the daily hours were changed to conform to usual working hours.
When Floyd came back from the War, he had an idea about "sticky buns," and Liz promptly started working on a recipe. The recipe for the "sticky buns" was never written down. It did require the right "touch," however. Henry Dormann, well known Manhattan publisher and magazine editor, mentioned the Chat A Wyle in his 1976 book about the best food and lodging in the world. He said that the Chat A Wyle had the most delicious "sticky buns," made daily and served warm. This endorsement brought famous people to the restaurant, such as movie actor Claude Akins and movie actress Hedy Lamar.
The business was expanded in the 1970's by the purchase of the adjacent building at 30 Liberty Street, and the opening of a coffee shop, the Chat & Dunk. It was an instant success. Sometime in the 1980's, the "h" was added to the name of the Chat A Whyle. This was due to an error in a municipal calendar. The error continued and was eventually adopted.
Although Popeye died in 1982 and son Robert died in 1985, Liz and grandson, Robert Margeson, kept the business going for another 10 years. In November 1993 John and Joyce Loza bought the business.
On May 23, 1995, a devastating fire gutted the structures from 26 to 32 Liberty Street, including the Chat A Whyle Restaurant, Chat & Dunk Coffee Shop, and Downtowne Hair Salon. Also, an adjoining building, housing 24 Liberty Street Real Estate, suffered extensive damage.
The structure at 24 Liberty Street was remodeled and the Downtowne Hair Salon moved to a location across Liberty Street. The Chat A Whyle was rebuilt to become our current venue and reopened in March of 1996."*
In June of 2018, Michael and Anne Romano purchased the business and are continuing the traditions made famous by the Margesons.
Michael is a USN veteran and graduate of the USN Nuclear Propulsion program, a lifelong native of Bath and an outdoor enthusiast. After graduating from Haverling, Anne earned a B.A. in Music with a minor in business from SUNY Geneseo. In addition to her work in accounting, Anne also directs the Senior Choir at the First Presbyterian Church of Bath. They are committed to continuing the homestyle recipes and traditions our community has grown to love. They look forward to creating new traditions, and including their two boys in the business, although their boys have many years to go before they can flip a Big Chat on the char-grill!
"Welcome to the Chat-a-Whyle. Sit - Eat - Relax, and chat a whyle."
*Credited to Historical Foundation of Bath, N.Y., Inc