What was once a parking lot adjacent to the Hydraulic Hearth beer garden is now home to a historic diner. We ran this story back in September that talks about the history of the diner, and how it made its way to Buffalo. What we didn’t mention is how the diner actually came into the possession of the Zemsky family.
It turns out that Howard Zemsky (Larkin Development Group) and urbanist Tim Tielman were in Newark, hoping to purchase an Airstream trailer to convert into a diner. When they got to the diner, they found out that the owner was running late. So Teilman (who apparently brandishes a keen knowledge of diners) told Zemsky that he knew of an operational diner not too far away, where they could grab a cup of coffee and wait. When they arrived to the 1930s Sterling Streamliner diner, there was a “For Sale” sign on the outside. So they inquired with the owner, hoping to purchase that as well. Unfortunately, after chatting for a bit, the owner got cold feet and the sale was off. The two then headed back to the Airstream, made the purchase, and today it is home to Public-2-Go (see back story here).
In a stroke of luck, one year later, Zemsky got a call from the owner of the Sterling Streamliner diner who was ready to sell (see back story here). The purchase was made, Amanda Amico of Amy’s Truck fame was brought onboard as the operator, and earlier today the stunning diner was delivered to its new home.
Once open, the Swan Street Diner will seat 50, and there will be outdoor seating as well (to the left of the diner, thus completely obscuring the parking lot). The exterior was refurbished to replicate its original appearance. The interior was also overhauled and is being brought back to a similar state of what it would have looked like back in the day. The booths have all been custom made. Once in place, the kitchen will be installed. Instead of a modern stainless steel look (as one might expect), this classic diner was made to be more homey, with warm wood and porcelain (its original look).
According to Amico, she will be serving up traditional diner food with some twists. Anyone who is familiar with the chef/entrepreneur knows that she will bring some culinary magic to the Swan Street Diner. Thankfully, the diner will be open seven days a week, which will be a welcome change for local residents and visitors to Larkinville.
To top it off, the Zemskys are going to add a window at the rear of the diner, which will open to the patio. Customers sitting on the patio will have easy access to ice cream, shakes, etc. An interesting aside, this will not be any ordinary patio. Nope. Leslie and Harry Zemsky were inspired by the NYC High Line to create a natural-looking tiered seating area that will be a draw unto itself.
What I love most about this project is that the Zemskys are adding historic components to a district by securing authentic elements. The Airstream and the Sterling Streamliner help to tie the neighborhood together, thus creating a real sense of place. This is not modern day schlock. Instead it is intended to be thoughtful and organic. Every bit and piece of Larkinville is planned out, always taking into consideration a certain authenticity that will appeal to a wide range of people. In Buffalo, we lost so much when swaths of our historic stock of buildings were razed. We will never get those back.
Fortunately, we still have a lot of historic buildings to play with. And we can infill with projects that lend themselves to our historic neighborhoods, thus masking the legacy blunders that were made during the time of Urban Renewal. There is a valuable lesson to be learned here, which for many will come in the form of relaxing on a warm summer day with an ice cream cone in hand, sitting on a bluff, overlooking Larkin Square.