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A daunting departureEast Point Inn, an East Rockaway institution, closes without warning

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      "Who knew?" said longtime resident John, who did not want his last name used. "I had no idea they were going to close. I wish I did. I would have gone in for one last dinner."
      To many who live in the village, the East Point Inn is a landmark. The building served as the village post office and general store almost a century ago, long before it opened as a restaurant.
      The restaurant, owned and operated by the Colwell family since 1969, was known for its excellent fare and old-fashioned charm. Over the years, it served as the backdrop for civic group meetings and P.T.A. dinners as well as memorable family gatherings.
      The restaurant was sold in December 2002, and the Colwells focused on their other enterprise, the East Point Cafe, a popular local eatery that stands across the street from the East Point Inn. Unfortunately, while the Cafe blossomed, the Inn seemed to wither. Locals recognized that while the restaurant tried to maintain its high standards, business was down.
      "They weren't getting the business they once did, but I don't think any of us thought the East Point Inn would ever close," said John.
      The most recent manager of the Inn, whom the Colwells declined to identify, could not be reached for comment.
      The timing of the closing is especially surprising since downtown East Rockaway is winding down its major waterfront revitalization project, which is sure to drum up more business for the area. Across from the Inn, a picturesque park is planned, with fishing docks along the renovated canal and bulkhead. Main Street, which fronts the restaurant, is already boasting newly paved streets and street lights reminiscent of a time gone by -- a time when the East Point Inn was the place to go for Sunday brunch or an evening meal.
      Nancy Colwell, speaking on behalf of her family, said only, "We are saddened by the closing of the East Point Inn."
      Although the Colwells still own the property, no decisions have been made regarding the future of the restaurant. Nancy Colwell declined to comment further.
      "Quite honestly, the village is disappointed, just like the rest of the citizens," said Bill Long, East Rockaway's village clerk and treasurer. "It was always a wonderful place -- a landmark -- so we'd like to see it reopen. It also happens to have been my wife's favorite restaurant."