Loretta Cuervorst's recipe is safe with her daughter, Karen Manning.
Manning sold her last VandeReuben sandwiches Saturday, the final day for the Belgian Village Inn in Moline. Some customers waited as long as two hours for the legendary sandwiches, which is less than the four-hour wait the day before.
"I'm being really careful who I sell the recipe to," Manning said from behind the counter.
Her parents, Denis and Loretta Cuervorst, started their culinary career baking bread in the house. Then her mother developed the recipe for the VandeReuben and they opened the restaurant in 1977.
Karen and her husband Shawn Manning took over the family business. Last week, they decided Saturday would be their last day at 560 17th Ave. They closed the drive-thru at 532 19th Ave. on Friday.
The restaurant and the recipes are for sale. Manning said she hopes to find the right person to reopen the doors.
David Levin, an agent with NAI Ruhl Commercial Company, representing the properties, said Saturday he's received two dozen calls in the last two days and has arranged to meet with some "serious" buyers in the coming weeks.
"A number like to keep it a restaurant," Levin said. "A number like to change the building to something else. We're looking at everything."
Mike DeMay of Davenport, who waited at least an hour and a half Saturday for a VandeReuben, said he doesn't remember a Quad-City restaurant drawing quite the crowd.
"I've never seen this much loyalty," DeMay said.
A line of dozens formed out the door about 10 a.m. About an hour later, every seat was filled, and there was hardly a place to stand, with customers on a waiting list for tables.
"I've stood in line for a Metallica concert," Sam Norcross of Moline said. "I've never stood in line for a Reuben."
Both Norcross and DeMay agreed the food was well worth the wait.
Nikki Schmidt of Coal Valley and Janet Nicholas of DeWitt weren't sitting alone for long at a table for four. Manning invited Duane and Lisa Crandall of Moline to sit with them.
"We were strangers till we got here," Lisa Crandall said of their new lunch dates.
"It's kind of our 'Cheers,'" Crandall, a 30-year customer, said, referring to the long-running TV show.
"We're sharing tables, everybody," Manning called out to the crowd of customers standing near the front door.
It wasn't even noon.
Since announcing her decision to close Wednesday, she said the number of customers she's served in three days has approached "thousands."
Long lines have been a daily occurrence at both the restaurant and drive-thru. Manning said on Thursday, she spent an hour greeting customers at the drive-thru and apologizing after running out of food early that day.
She said she had to call the police to the drive-thru Friday night for a few rowdy customers, including one who actually spit on one of her employees.
"There's only so much we can do," Manning said. "Day and night we're making Reubens."
Customers carried bags of the grilled, hubcap-sized VandeReubens stacked on top of each other out the door Saturday.
Manning never anticipated the turnout.
"It's humbling," she said. "It blows my mind. It's overwhelming."
The turnout wasn't enough to convince her to stay open.
"I can't go back," Manning said about closing the restaurant after 37 years. "We've already been there. It's not about the money."
It's about her and her husband's health.
"We're tired," Manning said. "The stress can kill you."
She said they sometimes put in 20-hour days into the business. Now she'd like to help take care of her parents and grandchildren.
She may also return to some other passions.
Manning was music director for a long time at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rock Island. She left two years ago to put more time into the restaurant. With the restaurant closed, she said she may consider singing again.
Whether someone sells another VandeReuben or not, Manning said her family would like to one day put together a memoir of stories and recipes.
"There are so many family stories," she said, and then pointed to everyone inside the restaurant. "They're all my family."