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Ben Mikesell | The Journal Gazette
Ryan Scheele serves customers inside Cindy’s Diner, which reopened Saturday on West Berry Street.

Few changes as Cindy’s reopens

Ben Mikesell | The Journal Gazette
John and Tricia Etzler of Madison, Wis., bring food out to their children at the reopening of Cindy’s Diner on Saturday.

There wasn’t a ribbon-cutting ceremony as Cindy’s Diner re-opened Saturday, but the sizzle of bacon on a fresh griddle was ceremonious enough when you’re a regular.

The iconic downtown diner is now open for breakfast and lunch in its new location at West Berry Street and Maiden Lane, a slightly calmer locale than its original location at Harrison and Wayne streets.

The diner, which sat at that busy corner for 23 years, closed at the end of May for a little more than a month as it moved down a couple blocks to make room for the construction of the Ash Brokerage headquarters.

However, once walking under the recognizable green awning and squeezing inside the door, the sight of co-owner John Scheele busy on the griddle and veteran waitress Angela Harter slathering a layer of thick butter on toast in between taking orders proved nothing much had changed at the 15-stool countertop.

And that’s just the way they like it.

“I insisted it stay the same,” Scheele said. “We’re the only diner in town. Put it inside a building, with a lot of booths and seats, you would have a lot of disappointed people.”

The staff took the time off to enhance the building with some cosmetic changes. Scheele said the diner has new floors, new lights and wallpaper, the grill has a new polish to it and the cherry-red cushioned stools also have been reupholstered.

“It’s just the upgrading we’ve done to the equipment. It gave a chance to shine it up a bit,” he says. “Six months from now, people won’t remember where we located before.”

With all of the stools and outdoor tables occupied, Harter, better known as “Brat” to customers, said business Saturday had been “a pretty darn busy one” so far. Other than a few calls inquiring when the diner opened and its new address, most customers, she said, found their way just fine.

After what she believes was a pretty smooth transition, she seconded Scheele’s opinion that it’s important the personality of the diner stay the same, despite physical changes.

“The way it is is why people come here,” she says. “If you change things too much you kind of lose what you had to begin with.”

John and Tricia Etzler from Wisconsin have made Cindy’s one of their Fort Wayne staples for the past couple of years when they come to visit John’s father. This time around, the couple surprised their three children with a breakfast outing.

“This restaurant is really nice, well they said it was,” 11-year-old Christina Etzler said, laughing at her parents. A few fragments of her pancakes remain in the Styrofoam box.

“It’s really good food and it’s really nice to come here.”

John said it’s the nostalgic and casual attitude of the diner that made the couple want to share the experience with their family.

“It’s the atmosphere. You don’t see something like this anymore where you can just sit around the counter,” he said.

Tricia, in between bites, agreed with her husband.

“It’s eclectic,” she said. “The cool part for us is that we came here during Memorial Day weekend, and I think that was one their final days before they closed, so today when we were looking it up to surprise the kids, we realized they were opening today. We were here for the last day at the old location and the first day at the new location – how awesome is that?”

kcarr@jg.net

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