Thurmont lifers don’t need an introduction to the Cozy, but for the young among us and newcomers to the community it’s hard to overstate the influence and attraction that was the Cozy. Initially, it was a gas station with three small cabins and a few tents established in 1929 by Wilbur Freeze. Eventually the restaurant capacity reached 350 and at its busiest – according to the Cozy – it served 1,300 diners a day. Oh, and that doesn’t include the Cozy Inn, a motel built in 1968, or the Cozy Shoppes, which were on the opposite side of the road. While you waited for a table, you could browse through the antique, gift, flower, and pottery stores and more.
Cozy began when travel by car was peaking following World War I. Freeze had been working in Michigan but returned to his hometown and started a business focused on travelers who needed gas, a meal, and a place to sleep. The gas station and cabins were the beginning; a 12-stool luncheon bar and small kitchen followed four years later. As the business became more successful, Freeze added rooms and enlarged spaces. Throughout its long run, the Freeze family emphasized buffet service, low prices, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
The restaurant became a destination, not only for travelers moving north and south along the Frederick-Emmitsburg turnpike then, later, US 15, but also the curious who heard about the food, fish pond, and themed dining rooms and came from afar to see for themselves. Over many years, it became the common meeting and eating place for locals as well. Many in Thurmont ate dinner at the Cozy every Friday night. It was the place to eat Sundays after church. People from all over came to see the Christmas decorations every year or to eat at the Cozy every New Year’s Day. Numerous news articles over many years referred to it as a landmark.
In addition, the Cozy – both the restaurant as well as the motel – became the default hangout for political staff and the press corps whenever the president visited Camp David. Winston Churchill is said to have come inside for a 7-Up while passing through Thurmont with President Franklin Roosevelt on their way to the mountain hideaway. Foreign dignitaries ate there when presidents hosted delegations at the retreat. The rooms at the inn were named for presidents and each had a distinctive color and style.
Freeze died in 1961, and his wife, Mary, and son, Jerry, continued to operate the business. In 2014, at 78, Jerry called it quits and the restaurant closed; the inn closed the next year. Other than the three years Jerry served in the Marine Corps, he’d never worked anywhere else. The Cozy site occupied the footprint now serving Criswell Automotive at the corner of Moser and Frederick Roads.
Fun Fact: Wilbur Freeze was a grandson of Mary Freeze, who was Col. John R Rouzer’s older sister. Mary’s youngest son, John Henry Freeze, was Wilbur’s father. Col. Rouzer arguably became the most prominent person who ever lived in Thurmont – and he lived at 11 North Church Street between 1865 and 1914: what we now call the Creeger House and the historic house museum that is home to the Thurmont Historical Society. One of the three original Cozy cabins now is owned by the historical society and is partially restored on our site (with plans for more work to be done). Read more about Col John R Rouzer in the biography section of the website.