by Terry Rogers
Terri Rosetta and Brian Stabell spend each day at the Milford Diner repairing, cleaning and refurbishing the former Milford mainstay. The couple says that their goal is to bring the old diner, whose original section was built in 1954 by the Fodero Dining Car Company, back to life.
“The menu will have a lot of the same items that people remember,” Stabell said. “We want to keep it as traditional as we can. But, we also plan to add some new items, leaning more toward farm-to-table, local, fresh foods. Our main goal is to create a family here, not just a family of waiters and cooks, but a family of customers. We know that good food is critical, but a good experience is everything.”
Stabell and Rosetta were not in the market to buy a diner when the opportunity presented itself. Stabell, who has kitchen experience and has helped open restaurants for other people, knew he enjoyed cooking. Over the years, he has worked in restaurants, in construction and as a landscaper, but kept coming back to cooking. When he and Rosetta got together seven years ago, he knew he wanted to open a business. Rosetta had been working in the medical field for 30 years, 17 of those years in the same practice, and was looking for a change.
“I met John Bogan at his pawn shop and the storefront next to him was vacant,” Stabell said. “I approached him about opening a sandwich shop in the vacant location and he mentioned he owned the diner. He was very open about the issues at the diner, both past and present. We just didn’t think we could do it and I ended up taking a job in Florida. Two days after I got there, John called and said he was putting the diner up for sale. I knew this was an opportunity for me to own the restaurant of my dreams and for her to get out of the medical field.”
Initially, the only remodeling the couple planned to do was to make the bathrooms ADA compliant. As they began that process, they learned that the entire plumbing system needed to be replaced as well as the entire HVAC system. The roof needs repair and replacement as there are leaks along one wall.
“Our initial plan was to call this Terry and Brian’s something or other,” Rosetta said. “So we started asking people about names. Everyone told us that what would happen is that we would end up saying ‘we own Terri and Brian’s,’ and people would look puzzled. We would then say “the old Milford Diner.” That as when we decided it needed to stay the Milford Diner.” The couple has partnered with art classes at Milford High School who are developing a new logo that the couple says is “clean and simple.”
Rosetta and Stabell hope that they can provide people the diner experience they remember from many years ago. Rosetta says she remembers coming to the Milford Diner with her late father and bringing her own children there when they were younger. The couple has reached out to the DeRaffele Manufacturing Company, one of the few that still build standalone diners like the original section of the Milford Diner. After visiting the location, Stabell said that the company has offered to help them get the older portion of the restaurant back into shape.
The Fodero Dining Car Company, who built the original section of the diner in New Jersey, operated from 1933 to 1981. The company was founded by Joseph Fodero, an Italian immigrant, and many of the diners the company built are still in operation. After World War II, the industry exploded as soldiers returned from war. Although the economy was booming, people were still looking for reasonably priced meals which diners were known to provide.
“This is a wonderful location,” Rosetta said. “It is on the way to the beach, it has always had a good reputation. I cannot tell you how many people have stopped in to ask if we are open. They are so excited to have the Milford Diner back. We know we will make mistakes, but we have the passion and desire to turn this place into something special.”
The couple is planning a grand opening sometime in mid-2018.
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