Tony’s Booth From the ‘Sopranos’ Finale Sets Off Online Bidding War

Tony’s Booth From the ‘Sopranos’ Finale Sets Off Online Bidding War

Tony Soprano puts a quarter into the jukebox to play “Don’t Stop Believin’” and orders onion rings for the table. His wife and son join him as his daughter struggles to parallel park outside. A bell chimes every time a customer arrives, deepening Tony’s anxiety: Will the next person to walk through the door kill him?

What happens next has kept fans guessing since the final scene of “The Sopranos” abruptly cut to black in 2007. It has also kept a few of them energized enough to bid tens of thousands of dollars to own the diner booth where the much-dissected sequence was shot.

Holsten’s in Bloomfield, N.J., which is preparing for a renovation, put the burgundy booth and yellow Formica tabletop up for auction on eBay on Feb. 28. Chris Carley, a co-owner of the ice cream parlor, set the opening bid at $3,000, hoping he might get $10,000 for it to help cover part of the estimated $60,000 cost for a new floor and new booths.

Within 24 hours, the price had jumped to $52,000. By Monday afternoon, there had been more than 230 bids, pushing the price above $82,000.

The auction ends just after 10 p.m. Monday.

The winning bidder will get the booth, the table, the divider and the family plaque that reserves the seats for the Soprano family. (Not included: the jukebox, which was added by the film crew.) The buyer is responsible for pickup.

Holsten’s opened in 1939 as Strubbe’s Ice Cream Parlor and eventually expanded to include diner fare. The booth has been in the Holsten’s dining room for more than 50 years, Mr. Carley said, and after decades of wear and tear — in more recent years from hordes of “Sopranos” fans — it was time for a reboot.

“It’s just time to do it,” Mr. Carley said. “It’s not something we took lightly.”

While Holsten’s is known for its homemade ice cream, it has also embraced its celebrity status over the years, promoting its Soprano-famous onion rings and matching merchandise. David Chase, the creator and executive producer of “The Sopranos,” ordered the onion rings when he had lunch there a month before filming, or so the story goes.

But at its core, Holsten’s is a “good, old fashioned” restaurant where “we know people by their first names,” said Mr. Carley, who has been working there off and on since he was 14. He was always drawn back to the store, he said, and became a co-owner in 1980.

“This place has been in my life for 40-some-odd years,” Mr. Carley said. “I’m proud that it has continued to flourish.”

“The Sopranos” filmed at Holsten’s over three days in March 2007 with James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Robert Iler in the booth, and then two more days for reshoots with extras, Mr. Carley said. He still remembers watching Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Tony’s daughter, Meadow, try to park for eight hours.

“I’m thinking, How many times can you do this?” Mr. Carley said with a laugh. “It was a great experience for us.”

The attention that the booth — and Holsten’s — has received in the past week is close to what it was like when the final episode aired, Mr. Carley said. Fans would regularly come in to dine in the booth or pose for pictures. They’d also take the restaurant’s laminated menus, one of which fetched $4,150 on eBay, Ron Stark, a co-owner, told The New York Times in 2007.

After Mr. Gandolfini died suddenly in 2013 from an apparent heart attack, the booth became a memorial. The restaurant immediately closed the booth and put up a “reserved” sign “out of respect,” Mr. Carley said. For two weeks, fans left cards and flowers on the booth, which Mr. Carley later gave to Mr. Gandolfini’s son.

Mr. Gandolfini “was such a nice guy when he wasn’t in character,” Mr. Carley said, recalling how the actor would come up behind the restaurant’s grill and ask, “What do you got to eat?”

Like many fans of the show, Mr. Carley thought his television was broken when the finale abruptly cut to a black screen. Even though the scene was filmed in his shop, he had no idea what to expect. Still, Mr. Carley has his money on Tony’s living to see another day.

Holsten’s put in a new floor about three months ago, taking all of the old booths out and then putting them back. This week the booths were replaced; the Formica tops were cracking and the cushions, like the one Tony and his family sat on, were sinking. The new ones are from J&H Dinettes and Upholstery in Freehold, N.J.

Holsten’s and “Sopranos” fans need not panic. The color scheme will be the same, “just a little brighter,” Mr. Carley said.

“We want to put back exactly what we took out,” he said. “When people come into the store, they’ll have a hard time noticing the difference.”

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