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The publisher of Roadside, the magazine long dedicated to the chrome culture of classic diners, is not at all happy with Silver Diner‘s plan to demolish its Rockville location and build a spacious new $4.5 million diner just down the road.
Roadside‘s Randy Garbin writes that he first visited the Rockville diner shortly after it opened in the late ’80s and found that the retro Kullman structure “completely fooled me: I believed it was a vintage structure. Kullman reached deep into its past and designed, built, and transported one of the more amazing examples of the iconic American diner.”
Now Garbin’s frustrated at Silver Diner’s plan to jettison the old property on Rockville Pike for a gleaming 10,000-square-foot showcase that will be lit up like a casino on the Vegas strip. Writes the publisher:
Despite the fact that the diner was built as an assembled diner in Avenel, New Jersey, separated into 8 sections, and trucked 300 miles to Rockford [sic], somehow they’ve determined it’s “unfeasible” to do just this and move those sections a couple of miles (if that).
This all sounds like corporate blather to me. The diner is historic in its own right, and its construction quality is on par with almost anything Kullman ever built. Having visited the stores they’ve built since this unit, I can say with some confidence that the new building will pale by comparison.
Damn shame, folks. Just another damn shame.
Last year, I spoke with president/CEO Bob Giaimo about his decision to tear down the old property, a move that struck me as particularly anti-diner, given that history and nostalgia are such an integral part of the business. Here’s what I wrote last year about Silver Diner’s plans:
All that excess and space is needed, the president says, because the current location is already operating beyond its capacity. He calls the Rockville location “one of the busiest restaurants of its size in the United States.” It feeds 10,000 diners per week, he says, but the restaurant requires many turns a night to hit those numbers, which taxes every one of his employees, from hostess to cooks to bus boys.
The new Silver Diner will seat about 250 customers and, just as important, will feature a modern kitchen capable of handling the stress of so many diners. The bigger and better diner is expected to open in the spring of 2010, Giaimo says, at which time they will close down the old restaurant and raze it.
But isn’t tossing away an old diner really an anti-diner philosophy? I put the question to Giaimo because, to my mind, diners are about history. Giaimo is sympathetic to that view, which why he’s planning to donate much of the old structure to a diner museum, but he also acknowledges that he has a business to run. The old spot has taken a beating. It doesn’t serve either the customers or the staff well.
“If you stay the same, you’re going to be a diner, but your customer base is going to shrink,” Giaimo says. “We have plenty of data to back that up.”