Longtime owner of Stratford’s Windmill Restaurant dies
STRATFORD - Rudy Weiss, a former TV repairman who later owned Stratford’s landmark Windmill Restaurant for 40 years, died Tuesday at age 83.
Before he bought the Hollister Street restaurant in the early 1970s, he worked in television repair and was the owner of Master Antenna Systems of New England. Before there was cable television, having a good TV antenna was essential if you wanted to have a sharp, clear picture on the tube.
Weiss attended the RCA Institute in NYC, the premiere electronics school that opened in 1909. The school had its largest graduating classes in the 1950s - the Golden Age of Television - and at a time of an increased interest in electronics. It was there Weiss learned how to service televisions and how antennas could pull in the signals.
Becoming a restaurant owner wasn’t something Rudy Weiss planned.
In 1972, he purchased the Windmill as as an investment. That made him the fifth owner of the landmark red-brick building built in 1934 has a weather-worn windmill above its front door. The restaurant is named after the water pumping windmill that was located on a farm across the street.
For decades, the Windmill has been a neighborhood bar that also attracts customers from throughout the region for its legendary hot dogs, assorted tavern fare and entertainment.
“After I bought the place, I found out I needed to be around here for things to run smoothly,” Weiss said in an 1997 Connecticut Post interview.
So he quit his installer job and donned an apron. Today, the elder Weiss looks very much at home as he spoons out Wienerschnitzel or breaded veal cutlet and cabbage lunches, or flips the potato pancakes frying in the iron skillet.
Many of the dishes that Rudy Weiss added - weiner schnitzel, Polish stuffed cabbage, pierogi and potato pancakes - remain on the Windmill Tavern’s menu.
Weiss conceded, that his chili hot dogs were legendary. The hot dogs, he said, were specially made for his restaurant and are slow-cooked on the grill. They were covered with mustard and onions and, of course, the chili, which was made from a recipe Weiss vowed never to disclose.
“We once had four busloads of people come in from Boston just for them,” Weiss said.
“That’s been the real joy of owning this place,” Weiss said about interacting with customers.
While owning the restaurant, Weiss supported Stratford EMS, Muscular Dystrophy and numerous softball teams. His support earned him induction to the Connecticut ASA Softball Hall of Fame as a sponsor. He was also a longtime member, and served as president, of the Stratford Jaycees.
“Rudy was always there with a joke and a smile; always trying to solve a complex problem in his mind,” is obit reads.
His death notice said he died “after a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia.”
Friends may call from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Redgate - Hennessy Funeral Home, Main Street and Gorham Place in Trumbull.
Funeral services and interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (www.lbda.org). To send online condolences, visit www.redgatehennessy.com