The “classic” Forbes Diner of New Haven to be replaced by Dunkin Donuts

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I was checking out Randy Garbin’s (Roadsideonline) Roadside Forums as I am wont to do on a daily basis when I noticed either Monday or Tuesday (the days seem to run together) the Forbes Diner of New Haven, CT was being moved to be replaced by a Dunkin Donuts store. For those who don’t know, the Forbes Diner is a classic, top-of-the-line 1957 vintage Fodero diner. With a vestibule, front “diner” section and back “kitchen/restrooms” section in nearly as close to original condition as you could get.

I was debating on putting anything in the Hotline about it when I got an email from Al Hofer on Tuesday night with a link to a WTNH.com website piece on the diner. I thought maybe I should do this when on Wednesday noontime-ish I got another email from Phil Langdon (Phil wrote the book, “Orange Roofs, Golden Arches”) with a story from the New Haven Register about the diners plight.

Although I never ate there (I will always kick myself over that), I did at least photograph it on May 29, 1983, according to my Diner Log. It was a damp and dreary Sunday afternoon as I recall, on a Connecticut roadtrip with Steve Repucci and David Hebb. We saw a lot of diners that day and unfortunately, Forbes Diner was closed that afternoon.

According to the news pieces the diner is being saved by the current owner who hopes to find a new location in or around New Haven to place the diner and operate it again. In the meantime, he is storing the 3 sections of the diner behind his other business, the New Star Diner.

Here is the New Haven Register article along with an intro by Phil Langdon ….

Friends,
Here’s an article from the Feb. 5 New Haven Register about the Forbes Diner. I only ate at the Forbes once–a lunch in early 1987 with architect Melanie Taylor, who during that meeting pointed out that shopping centers are now being called “Town Centers” and “Town Commons” and other such names and that a few people are starting to create real town centers (as at Mashpee Commons on Cape Cod). While we sat in a booth decorated with boomerang shapes in Formica, she gave me the idea that there was a growing yearning for traditional town centers, which resulted in my writing the March 1988 Atlantic Monthly cover story “A Good Place to Live” and led to my book A Better Place to Live. Hats off to the Forbes, wherever it may be! It had the grease of inspiration.
Phil

Forbes Diner on the move, but to where?

By Mark Zaretsky, Register Staff

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NEW HAVEN — They just packed up the front half of the sleek, stainless steel Forbes Diner last week, put it on a flatbed truck and took it away.

After 51 years, on and off, as a landmark eggs and coffee stop on Forbes Avenue, the diner is gone.

When they finish doing that with the back half of the Forbes this week to make way for a Dunkin’ Donuts, it will mark the first time in 60 years that there hasn’t been a diner at Forbes Avenue and Stiles Street.

But this is a story without an ending as yet — and there still is a chance for a happy one.

The good news is: The Forbes Diner is still in New Haven.

It’s still owned by its most recent owner, and Helmi Elsayed “Mo” Ali — a pretty resourceful guy, who a decade ago moved Ansonia’s former New State Diner to become the New Star Diner in Fair Haven — still hopes to reopen it. He prefers to do so in New Haven — or if not, someplace close by.

The well-preserved 1957 Fodero diner has gone through changes before. Its original owners, the Ezold family, closed it in 1994, but it reopened in 1998.

Ali, who struggled for years to keep the Forbes going amid high costs and marginal business, finally agreed to sell the property after several years of Dunkin’ Donuts overtures.

He closed the diner last week when the riggers showed up.

The original plan, which the City Plan Commission approved in 2006, called for demolition. But, Ali couldn’t go through with it and convinced the buyer to let him move the diner instead.

“I don’t want to knock it down,” Ali said.

So he moved the front half early Monday, and will move the back half midweek to property he owns near his other diner.

Having made that commitment, he’s nervous and doesn’t mind saying, “I need help — I need a new home right away!”

Ali hopes the city values the Forbes as much as he does and will get involved in trying to help relocate it. If anyone else out there has a good, high-traffic spot on a main drag — preferably in the city — for a beautiful old diner, he can can be reached at the New Star Diner at 562-5582.

The Forbes, which employed more than a dozen people at one point, “is in very good shape — inside and out,” Ali said. “All you need is a piece of property.”

City Deputy Economic Development Director Tony Bialecki, who used to eat at the Forbes Diner as a kid, said he’s aware of the situation. “I may just take a drive by and talk to him. It’s been a while since we talked about it,” Bialecki said.

Bialecki pointed out that City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg noted the diner’s historic value in City Plan’s 2006 approval of the Dunkin’ Donuts plan.

There are others who recognize the diner’s value. Ali said he turned down an attractive offer from someone who wanted to move it out of state.

“It is a beautiful diner and it is very desirable,” said diner expert Randy Garbin, who runs the RoadsideOnline.com Web site and ate at the Forbes twice.

“This one is the diner that everybody wants when they call up looking for a diner — they want a big, stainless steel diner from the ’50s,” said Garbin, who lives outside Philadelphia.

“It seems a little sad,” said Richard J.S. Gutman, author of “American Diner: Then and Now” and curator of the Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. “I’ve eaten there, I’ve liked it.”

Gutman, at the time of the Forbes’ reopening in 1998, called the model used for the Forbes “just about the zenith of diner design. … It sort of just epitomizes the 1950s.”

The man who built the Forbes, Pat Fodero, who ran the Fodero Dining Car Co. of Bloomfield, N.J., said in 1998, “They’ve got a good unit there. All they’ve got to do is serve good food.”

Mark Zaretsky can be reached at  mzaretsky@nhregister.com  or 789-5722.

Here is the Link to WTNH’s piece as well …. http://www.wtnh.com/Global/story.asp?S=7826596&nav=menu29_2 

Thanks Al and Phil (and Randy too)!

8 thoughts on “The “classic” Forbes Diner of New Haven to be replaced by Dunkin Donuts

  1. What a place. I was born and raised eating and working here. My father Andrew Ezold Jr. (majority owner) was the backbone of Forbes Diner. Always putting the customer first was his way of doing business. If it wasn’t for a family conflict amongst his brothers who didn’t know how to run the business, I believe it would still be there and be successful today!

  2. Hi,
    I’m Andy Ezold. My Dad,Mom & I started the Forbes Diner buying it from Bessitte & Lawson. It was a small Trolley Diner seating 42 poeple. Trolley car windows & a sliding front door. It was a Silk City Diner. I was 18 at the time, just out of the Navy. We had the new one built in 1957, Pat Fodero from N.J. We were open 24/7. at the time. Business picked up as the area was very active with all the exxon(it was Esso at the time.) Saab auto and all the other busnesses that were there. It gave us a good living.As time went on my younger brothers were taken inti the business. Harry always worked the night shift. Those were great times. It was a sad day when I left due to family problems. The customers were the greatest, I still have my old customers stop me and talk about the diner and how they miss it. It was home to a lot of families. The young kids would also come in and have hamburgers, fried, shakes. There were never any problems then. They are older now and tell me how they would come in with their Dads. Time sure passed by fast. I.m 80 now and am enjoying retirement with my wife of 57 years & my family. My boys all worked the diner doing short order and my daughters also worked while going to school. It was good to us. A lot of wonderful memories.My son Andrew e mailed me the article from California. The pictures are great. Thanks again. Andy Ezold

    • Andy, I would like to tell I had a perfect childhood growing up , and you helped . On Sat. morning my father took my 2 brothers and me for HOT CAKES! dripping with butter & maple syrup ….the year was 1955-1961- Pinhead was next store in his gas station , my grandparents lived on Wheeler St…and Jughead , Tato , Soupbone , Corkey were always around…The waitdress I think was Dottie or Dolly ?

  3. I am Peter, Andy’s oldest son and I remember the Forbes Diner well. It is where I grew up and met many friends. My Dad, Andy, was the best father. He taught me a lot of things about life in that diner. How to treat people, ignore prejudices by treating people the same. Some of those years were tough in New Haven as we remember but that stuff never stuck on me. The customers are what made the diner besides the family behind the scenes. I was lucky I got to work with family and friends so close they were family. John and Zuma were a couple of my all time favorites. My friends and I still talk about stopping after a night out and grabbing some food in the back door. There are so many people to talk about that I would be writing forever. But to name a few, The Exxon Drivers, Texaco, Mobil, the boys from Guyotte, Cheppio Bus Co., U.S. Steel, Saab, The Dock Workers, CT Coke(not the drink) who was sure to coat your car with a nice black covering in the earlier days. It was a time of family, knowing people and where they worked, how hard they worked. Jenny and Ralph a nice couple would come in nightly to have dinner. Harry always worked nights you would catch him in the corner booth with his friends having a laugh. The Diner did its job for many years providing many of the brothers families homes, food and children. Richard Esposito named some of the characters in the neighborhood Jughead, Freddie from the gas station the brother Capolla. Debbie then a just out of high school waitress and now a good friend. Deb take care. The brother from the Exxon station down the street. Lou from Guyotte. Dottie was the waitress Richard Esposito was talking about I believe. She worked M-F night 8pm-6am and was a pleasure with her friend Cookie. It was a big part of my growing up. I miss a lot of that Diner as if it had a life of its own. I can’t imagine a different childhood growing up. I got to spend a lot of time with my Dad and luckily I am still able to do that now in August of 2014. So everyone who stopped in and had a kind word I say thank you and I hope you are all doing well. For those who have moved on they are remember by many people. Our immediate family under my mother and father with 7 children, 14 grandchildren, and 3 and soon to be 4 great grandchildren all from a diner and loving parents.

    p.s. Help stop smoking in honor of Harry Ezold Veteran of the Korean War and his many friends who did not know the dangers when they were called to service or for what ever reason they started smoking..

    • Hi Peter, thanks for leaving this great comment on your remembrances growing up at the Forbes Diner! Priceless memories for sure!

  4. I am the second son of Andrew Ezold Jr., Dan. I will never forget the Forbes Diner as a place where our entire family including uncles, aunts, my grandmother, and cousins all worked together to create a fun and fond memory of growing up. The same is true for our family of employees who worked with us for many years – even decades. Dotty, Glenna (there were 2), Alice, Shelly, Marion, John, Waldo, Jimmy, Joe, Marty, Eleanor, Gladys, Rose, Fran, Betty, Elaine, Debby, Jim, Zuma, Sue, Faith, and many others I’m sure I’d think of if I kept going back. People worked hard in those days and often had to sacrifice personal matters for the overall good of the business. Restaurant business is tough no matter how you slice it. It’s not just about the food, it’s about the customer, the building, the mechanics, the cleaning, the ordering, the coordination, employee relations, planning, getting through tough times, competition, pricing, economic spikes, and wondering what the future would bring, just to name a few considerations. The entire diner ‘family’ made it look much easier than I’m sure it was. The regular customers completed the family picture with many good times, conversations and friendships. I look back at those diner days with a wonderful perspective of what it was like to grow up in a hard-working, fun-loving, and diverse group of fine individuals. I was very lucky to have been a part of it all. I do miss the Forbes.

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