DRYDEN, N.Y. –– The Dryden Queen Diner, a community favorite, closed permanently this year after serving the area for over two decades. Owners of the diner, John and Maria Poulos are retiring after a rough year of working through the pandemic and the restrictions it brought to the restaurant industry.
The last 10 days the diner was open, March 19 to March 28, the Poulos said they had tons of people come in to have one (or several) last meals at the diner and to say goodbye.
“It was unbelievable, people found out so fast, they felt so bad we were closing,” John said.
It made the Poulos’s realize just how much the community loved the diner and their family. They ran it as a family business with their children taking on various roles over the years before moving on to other jobs. In the months leading up to closing, the family had almost completely taken over running the restaurant again as much of their staff had opted to take unemployment to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“We couldn’t find help and were serving 50 percent occupancy,” John said.
The occupancy limit, which was part of the regulations set up by Governor Andrew Cuomo for restaurants during the pandemic, meant the Poulos couldn’t accommodate as many of their regular customers as they used to –– regulars were a huge part of the business model at the Queen Diner. John and Maria said that some customers would come in every day, sometimes even twice a day. They added that they miss seeing those folks and the Dryden community.
One of the Queen’s regular customers seen not daily, but weekly, was local author Amy Dickinson. She and the other women in her family would meet there every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the same booth that Maria and the diner’s regular waiter, Lorraine, would save for them.
“It’s a really wonderful venue, I felt very lucky to have a place in Dryden that was a central, ideal gathering place. Every small town should have places like the Queen,” Dickinson said.
It certainly was an important spot in Dickinson’s life as her family met there often and she and her husband ate at the diner on a frequent basis while they were dating. She even had her bridesmaids lunch there.
The Queen Diner had become a place in Dryden where families would go to celebrate and connect after big events like graduations, games, job promotions, and family gatherings.
Many patrons took to Facebook to express heartfelt sentiments and testimonies of the Poulos family and the diner.
The Lion Legacy Facebook page said, “A legend is coming to an end. While life changes so many things, Queen Diner was always there. Thank you for your years of service to this community. You will be missed!”
Many people commented on that post sharing stories and thoughts. Amber Gorton said she and her dad went there almost every Friday for years and is sad to see the diner close. Kimberly Chase commented an expression of thanks for the Poulos’ family for their years of service and said they’re a wonderful family. Several commented how the diner had the best reuben sandwiches around. While others expressed how deeply sad they were that it was closing and how amazing the family is.
While they’re going to miss serving the community, the Poulos’ said they’re looking forward to retirement after being in the restaurant business their whole lives and spending time with their children and grandchildren. They’re planning on taking it easy for a while and are staying in the area as they love living in Dryden.