Emil “Pop” Krucker purchased the main portion of the present grounds in 1929 consisting of a small cottage, pastures and marshy land. Being an idealist and a nature friend, he recognized the importance of water of which the property had in abundance. Because he was born at Lake Constance, Switzerland, he wanted to have his own pond. He decided to contract a steam shovel to dig two ponds. Upon their completion, he rimmed the shores with White Pine trees and stocked the waters with fish. Some of the very trees visible today were planted by “Pop” and rise some 60 or more feet.
Emil operated the business as a hobby until 1939 selling wine, beer, and champagne cider. He was famous for his Champagne cider which he made from apples harvested on the grounds. Swiss and German friends from Union City, N.J. and surrounding areas visited the grounds often for small parties in the beer garden and swims in the lake. In 1939 he built the present restaurant using local labor and craftsmen.
Emil was married to a Swiss woman named Lena. Together they had two children, Herman and Helen. Emil was gifted in socializing and entertaining the guests with song and drink while Lena was the backbone of the business. She saw that everything was maintained and operated upon her own strict guidelines of cleanliness and service.
Because of Emil’s love of nature he built a stable. There were chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs and goats. Emil’s wife, Lena, along with the children helped care for the animals daily. It seemed a perfect fit to the background of the heavily wooded Ramapo Mountains and general rural setting. To Emil it had become a reminder of his home in Switzerland. Today the stable no longer exists but his love of the outdoors and wildlife is still visible throughout the grounds.
In 1940 and 1941 many events were held. There was the “August Feier”, 1st of August celebration: the Swiss Independence Day along with the “Swing-Fest”, a form of Swiss wrestling, and an outdoor concert with Swiss music. There was a very primitive bowling alley and, as the years passed, a roof was built over it for protection. Eventually the building became the “Lake Pavilions “and is the most popular of all the picnic sites at present.
After his return from World War II, Emil’s son Herman, managed the restaurant and began improving the grounds for outings. Herman acquired the business from his father in 1952, living on the property with his wife Irma Conrad. Herman and Irma had four children, Lenore, Herman, Conrad and Christine. Grandpa Emil and Grandma Lena moved upstairs to the smaller apartment. In 1955, Herman was able to buy “Fuzzy Acres”, a property just adjacent to the restaurant grounds. It consisted of a summer house and 7 acres of land. He began developing the acreage with pavilions, ball fields and sports amenities. “Fuzzy Acres” is now what is called the North Grounds (or Show Grounds).
Herman’s thoughts were always of the future and he constantly upgraded the facility. The days of renting tents were replaced with permanent pavilions. The lake was phased out as the swimming facility and pools were constructed. Herman operated the business successfully until 1979 and then sold it to his son Conrad Krucker.
With the help of his sister Christine, Conrad was able to further improve the facilities. Christine and Conrad proved to be a successful team. Conrad was a graduate of the Culinary Institute and Christine was a social and knowledgeable person. Together Krucker’s enjoyed a season of prosperity throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1980, the “Edelweiss Pavilion”, a lovely Swiss-enhanced building for weddings and banquets was built. It was at that time Conrad and Herman decided to discontinue the restaurant business and concentrate solely on catered events.
Sadly in June of 2013 Conrad Krucker passed away after a year long illness at the age of 66. Conrad’s thoughts, memories and spirit are with his family, and friends, at Krucker’s, every day. Conrad’s son, Kurt Krucker and Conrad’s wife Mary Krucker own and operate the business currently with the help of Erik Krucker. Long time employees Brenda Ohanian, Linda Mancuso, Mary Ann Fenton and a list of others continue the tradition of service with our catered events, barbecues and banquets.
Kurt Krucker wishes are to operate the business successfully as well, and to one day pass it along to another family member as Krucker’s reaches the 100 hundred year milestone. For four generations the Krucker family has taken pride in the service and facility it provides. The history and the beauty of Krucker’s, like in the past, continues to give many people an enjoyable, fun-filled day, creating memorable occasions.