Notes from the Hotline, 11-14-09

New York Diner News

This has been posted on numerous sites including RoadsideOnline and Roadside Fans Yahoo Group but I need to get on the bandwagon as well. It was reported this week that two legendary diners from Albany, NY are being put up for sale by their respective long-time owners. There was also news of a “changing of the guard” at an iconic New York City diner this week as well.

Miss Albany Diner

The first of the two Capitol District Diners to be on the block is Cliff and Jane Brown’s Miss Albany Diner. Cliff is right up there in my book (along with Phil Paleologos of New Bedford’s Shawmut Diner) as being one of the most affable and enthusiastic owners I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The Brown’s have been running the Miss Albany for 20 years interestingly after having retired from previous positions in other careers.

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 Here is the text of a story that appeared in the Albany Times Union on November 12th…

Diner for sale, hold the change

The Miss Albany Diner owners ready to retire, but hope their classic fare remains eternal

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The diner, like the neighborhood, draws all types: Yuppies and factory workers, rich and poor, old-timers and hipsters — all in search of a cup of coffee, a warm meal and… “A friend,” Jane says. “They just need somebody to listen to them.”

The Browns this year are celebrating their 20th year as owners of the Miss Albany. But Cliff is 82 and Jane is 75 — and they’re eager to move on. Their son Bill, the restaurant’s cook, isn’t interested in taking over. The Browns are looking for the right person to take the diner into its next phase. Jane Brown says the business is profitable, though it has hardly made the couple rich.

“I will miss the people,” she says. “I will not miss the work.” The Miss Albany is adjacent to Wolff’s Biergarten, the popular nightspot. And its owner, Matt Baumgartner, is one of the diner’s big fans. “Anytime I have friends visit that’s one of my go-to places,” he said. “And everybody leaves loving it.”

The Miss Albany was built in 1941 and remains authentic to its time — so authentic that it received a preservation award from the Historic Albany Foundation, which noted that diner has never undergone a character-robbing remodeling. It has kept its charm. “It just feels like a good, old-fashioned diner,” Baumgartner said. “They don’t make diner cars like that anymore.”

Chris Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or cchurchill@timesunion.com. Read his blog at http://blog.timesunion.com/realestate

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Although it is sad to hear that the Brown’s will no longer be a part of this diner experience in the Capitol District in the near future, they certainly are due a well deserved retirement and we wish them all of our best wishes.

Jack’s Diner

The second of the two Capitol District Diners reported this week to be for sale is Jack’s Diner at 547 Central Ave., a well maintained and rare Comac Diner run by Jack Murtagh (who is only the second owner) business is on the market for $175,000, because Jack is retiring after 44 years in the business.

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Empire Diner

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It was also reported this week that NYC’s Empire Diner will be changing operators. Apparently the lease was up for renewal and the long-time operators lost out to owners of a very popular coffee shop from Union Square. This was the text of a small piece from the Gothamist website…..

The iconic Empire Diner in Chelsea is being taken over by the team that operates the obnoxiously fashionable but beautifully staffed Coffee Shop in Union Square. The owner of the property will not be renewing the lease with Renata Gonzalez, who’s operated the classic diner for over three decades. Instead, the Gotham City Restaurant Group will replace Gonzalez with a 15-year lease rumored to be in the $25,000 per month range. Gonzalez says she’s trying to get the new owner to keep some of the current employees, some of whom have been there for as long as her, but that seems unlikely. The name’s changing too, but that hasn’t been revealed yet.

Coffee Shop co-owner Carolyn Benitez tells Chelsea Now the diner will still operate 24/7, but she’s planning on radically reinventing the menu: “It’s a diner in feel, and that’s what appeals to us. It’s not going to have any other identity except being a great old diner with better food.” She’s promising “better ingredients and better quality production,” as well as “that Coffee Shop flavor,” which we interpret as ‘higher prices and hot but aloof servers.’ Oh well, at least we’re not losing it to Alabama.

As I understand it, Renata Gonzalez took over ownership from Jack Doenias who was credited with the transformation of this 1946 Fodero diner into the world’s first upscale diner in 1976. Also, Renata had ties with Thomas Feucht who is the founder of the Sam Kullman’s Diners, a chain in Germany.

It is a little upsetting to hear the new operators are going to change the name of the diner. We hope the other changes alluded to will not destroy this landmark diner.

One thought on “Notes from the Hotline, 11-14-09

  1. I have enjoyed both Jack’s and the Brown’s at Miss Albany. I hope they fall in the hands of equally passionate owners, although they both will have a tough acts to follow. Thanks Larry.

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