Classic diner on display in Oakley
July 24, 2007
The clamor for a new restaurant in Oakley was answered last weekend with the arrival of a diner that was built in the 1930s.
"It’s going to be something like an attraction you see at Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm, but it’s in Oakley," said South Summit resident Keith Walker, who owns the diner.
Oakley Mayor Blake Frazier expects Walker to spend about 10 months renovating the building before the restaurant is moved to a permanent location near the corner of Weber Canyon Road and State Road 32.
"It needs a little bit of work done on it both interior and exterior," Frazier said.
Neighbors complained when officials discussed placing the diner on a triangular piece of land near the intersection of S.R. 32 and North Bench Road.
Many residents support the new location, Frazier said.
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Walker expects to refurbish the building then hire a crew to run the diner.
"[Walker] really doesn’t want to run it," Frazier said.
The diner begins to address the need for more commercial development in Oakley, he added.
The building, which seats about 56 people, is 60 feet long and 16 feet wide. A semi-truck towed the diner along back roads to Oakley from Middletown, R.I.
"It was about $35,000 to get it out here," Walker said. "They wouldn’t let them go on the Interstate. They had a police escort through most of it."
Delivering the diner to Oakley took about three months.
By May next year he expects the classic diner to serve "comfort food" like meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
Although some restaurant owners call establishments "diners," a true diner is a prefabricated structure built inside a factory, Walker explained.
"A lot of people thought diners were converted train cars, they’re not," he said.
Once there were about 6,000 diners in the United States, he said, adding that only 1,200 remain.
"It’s an authentic diner," Walker said, adding that his offer to purchase the building was accepted over offers from people in Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Premier diner manufacturer Jerry O’Mahony Co. built the free-standing structure in the 1930s. The restaurant will boast Italian marble countertops and a mosaic tile floor, Walker said.
"The town has always wanted a restaurant and they were dying to develop the downtown area," he said, adding that until the diner is refurbished it will sit near the Town Hall on Center Street in Oakley. "This will be an anchor for the downtown area."
A building constructed at the rear of the diner will house restrooms, a portion of the kitchen and storage areas.
"It’s going to look like a restored railroad car," Walker said about the building green and yellow building.
American Diner Museum officials wanted the structure to remain in Rhode Island "but no one in Rhode Island bellied up to the bar," Walker said.
"We’re going to restore it like brand new," he said, adding that booths will be removed and restored to original condition. "It’s more than a diner, it’s a roadside attraction."
No other traditional diners exist in Utah, Idaho or Wyoming, he said.
"People will come to see something that was built before the war," Walker said, adding that the diner will have 21 stools and 13 booths. "They cook right behind the counter."
Fast-food restaurants in America put many diner owners out of business.
"They try to salvage these diners before they get bulldozed," Walker said.
He expects the diner’s most expensive "blue plate specials" to cost about $14.
At night, stained-glass windows near the top of the building will create a glow, Walker said.