"We really put a lot of effort and heart and soul into this, for 31 years" says Mark Hastie, who co-owns Gullifty's with his brother, Matt. "There's always mixed feelings. We've had a good run of it and decided to pursue other options."
Prompting the move is the Hasties' decision to sell their Murray Avenue building, a former moviehouse called the Guild, to the Friendship Circle. Hastie says the plan is to open a childcare facility in the location, while he and his brother focus on a catering venture which serves Carnegie Mellon University. There are no plans to open a new Gullifty's in town, he says.
As for the desserts which made Gullifty's famous? "I have been talking with another local bakery about reproducing our desserts," Hastie says. "But I can't tell you anything definitely yet."
Gullifty's posted signs announcing its imminent closure last weekend, but Hastie acknowledges the news will come as a surprise to some of the faithful. "Word has been kind of trickling out. We thought about how we were going to announce it, but the [sales] negotiations didn't allow us to close until too recently for us to plan any kind of big event."
There was once a string of Gullifty's concept restaurants owned across Pennsylvania, including a second Pittsburgh-area location in Whitehall. That location opened in 1980 but closed in 1989; the Squirrel Hill location opened in 1982, and the Hastie brothers purchased it in 1989. There is still a Gullifty's operation in Phliadelphia and in Harrisburg, but Hastie says you shouldn't jump in the car expecting to find the same desserts in either location. The restaurants are separately owned and "Everyone has put their own spin on things. I'd have to say that no one does desserts like we do."
And the Pittsburgh location has a special claim as well: The restaurants take their name from another local tradition: the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood children's show. "The character X the Owl, when he sees something he likes, Hastie says, 'Isn't that nifty-gullifty?'" Hastie says. "Fred Rogers and his wife were regular customers here."
Editor's note: This post was changed to clarify the identity of the Gullifty's building purchasers.