Current photo of East Shore Diner courtesy of CBS 21, Harrisburg, PA

It had been reported within the last year or so that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced the I-83 Capital Beltway interchange project and the possibility of displacing businesses in the process. One of the redesigned interchanges includes some land taking along the area where the highway intersects with Cameron Street exactly where the East Shore Diner, a vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner has operated since the early 1950s.

The current owner Bill Katsifis, who bought the former Ray’s Diner in the early 1980s after it had been closed for a time, co-owns the business with his wife, Dorothy Katsifis, said they want to move the diner to another location in Harrisburg. In an article reported by Sue Gleiter of Pennlive.com on November 01, 2021, according to Katsifis, negotiations had stalled over the amount of financial compensation PennDOT is willing to pay and whether the agency will cover upfront expenses to relocate the diner.

Bill and Dorothy Katsifis, courtesy of East Shore Diner

He said he has no intention of blocking PennDOT’s acquisition of the diner’s 3/4-acre property and just wants to be fairly compensated and not be left with debt, especially when the diner’s mortgage is already paid off. “It’s so sad. I’m 61 years old and I have a diner. I have a business. I have it all. I told them I’m begging you to let me keep what I have,” Katsifis said.

PennDOT District 8 spokesman David Thompson said the diner is considered a dislocated business and the owner entitled to compensation for the value of the real estate, as well as business relocation assistance and benefits. PennDOT’s multi-year, multi-contract project is intended to widen an eight-mile stretch of I-83 from four to eight lanes. Recently, the rebuild of a northbound portion of I-83 between I-81 and just south of the Union Deposit Road interchange reopened with final improvements scheduled to be completed by next spring.

I was contacted right after re-posting the news on my personal Facebook page by my old friend Ed Womer who lives in the area. He offered to go over and take some current photos of the diner for me….

December 1, 2021 photo by Ed Womer
December 1, 2021 photo by Ed Womer
December 1, 2021 photo by Ed Womer
December 1, 2021 photo by Ed Womer

Earlier this spring, the diner was offering a new t-shirt announcing their Farewell Tour. My friend Wendy Van Hove was gracious enough to send me one of which I wear proudly…

yours truly sporting an East Shore Diner Farewell Tour t-shirt

On August 17, 2022, the diner posted this announcement on their Facebook page to officially announce the following statement…

Change is never easy and as many of you may know, our family business – our East Shore Diner is being forced to relocate by PennDOT’s I-83 Expansion Project. Therefor we are making adjustments to our family business and have some news to share.Given the tough circumstances, we have stayed open as long as possible. So it is with a heavy heart that we must first announce the closing of the East Shore Diner. Our last day will be September 1, 2022.

We have been a part of the community for 38 years and we are saddened to have to close our current operations. Bill Katsifis started this business with his Dad in the fall of 1984 and worked tirelessly and passionately to make this Diner the best it could be for his family, his employees and his customers.
Throughout the many years, everyone who walked in for their shift or a bite to eat, has become friends and in many ways, turned into an extension of our family! Together we have been through quite the journey of both Covid and tough times as the East Shore Diner family. We want to deeply thank all of the employees and customers we’ve had throughout the years. We wouldn’t be where we are today without each and every one of you!

We will be moving our historic O’Mahony diner building to a new location. While due to our changes, we will no longer be called the “East Shore Diner”, the heart and soul we all created will remain. We are excited for our new journey to officially begin and sincerely hope to continue to see familiar faces visit us in our new venture. We cannot thank our wonderful staff enough and all our East Shore Diner family for your support and love and friendship. We are forever grateful, keep checking our Facebook page for more updates on the exciting future of our family business!

Shortly after this, I contacted Bill Katsifis and our conversation went like this…
(LAC) Hi Bill, I understand that the diner is closing on September 1st. I heard you will be moving it to Mechanicsburg….
(BK) Hi Larry, how are you? Yes, September 1st is our last work day. We’re moving the diner sometime in October to Mechanicsburg, I’m happy that we get to keep it in the family. We purchased the property and had the foundation permit approved so everything looks good I’ll message you when we’re getting closer to the move thanks again. We have to save as many of these diners as we can.

This is great news when another vintage diner will get to live and operate again in a new location! When this diner was installed in the early 1950s, it operated as Seybold’s Diner…. It has a somewhat unique set-up as it was built as an “L” shaped unit with two sections. These sections comprised of a large front section that faced Cameron Street and a smaller section that was attached to the right rear of the front section. Both of these pieces wrapped around the front and right side of an on-site constructed cinder block building that housed the kitchen and rest rooms. This configuration fooled me as there was a similar diner in the Harrisburg area, the Decoven Diner, that was approximately the same age and had an “L” shaped dining area. The difference between the Decoven and Seybold’s was the rear section of the Decoven was the same length as the front section. So that diner had a factory kitchen and rest rooms instead of an on-site addition.

Postcard of Seybold’s Diner from the early 1950s

My own personal history with this diner goes back to early in 1981 when I was visiting my friends, Steve Repucci and Ed Womer in the Harrisburg area. It was called Ray’s Diner at that point but was closed. It had “Sheriff’s Sale posters in a few of the windows but was completely intact on the interior, (FYI, a Sheriff’s sale is basically an auction to sell equipment and other property to help get money from a mortgage foreclosure). Later on, probably when I first photographed it on November 27, 1981, Ed Womer (who took the recent photos last December, see above) drove me over from his place so I could take my first two photos of Ray’s Diner, months after the Sheriff’s sale. I took a look inside and saw the interior of the diner was completely stripped! No counter, stools, booths or back-bar equipment, the place was completely bare.

November 27, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera
November 27, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera
February 19, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera
February 19, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera
February 19, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Seeing the interior completely bare, I thought this diner would never survive. Luckily, I was wrong – as stated above, the Katsifis family eventually purchased the empty diner in 1984 and spent some time, effort and money into replacing the gutted interior with new counters, stools, etc and re-opened the diner in 1985.

January 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera
January 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera
January 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

I wish the Katsifis family well on the up-coming transition and will be following up with the progress. I am also curious as to what the new operating name will be once it opens in Mechanicsburg.

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