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Transplanted vintage diner is on the horizon for Buffalo’s Larkinville

Leslie Zemsky is having lots of fun planning for the newest addition to the Larkinville empire.

Three years after her husband Howard’s Larkin Development Group bought a nearly 80-year-old diner east of Rochester, she and their partners are preparing to install it on a parking lot next to the Hydraulic Hearth restaurant on Swan Street, across from Larkin Square.

The 40-foot-long vintage diner, with 11 counter stools and additional booth seating, is currently sitting in a Buffalo warehouse, where workers are completing a restoration and renovation before putting it back in service. Plans call for it to be placed along the street at 694 Swan, next to the beer garden at Hydraulic Hearth.

The Zemskys’ son, Harry, already runs the Hearth, and will manage the diner, as well.

Unlike the more traditional-looking Lake Effect Diner and similar places from the 1950s, their new diner does not have a silvery stainless-steel facade; it has wood and enamel panels.

An addition will be constructed around it for the kitchen and bathrooms, and the Zemskys also want to put in a bicycle park with racks.

“It’s just so beautiful,” she said. “I think of it as a work of art.”

The restaurant will be open for breakfast and lunch every day, serving typical diner fare such as eggs and other breakfast staples, burgers, sandwiches, salads, shakes and ice cream. Leslie Zemsky said she even ordered a Hamilton Beach three-pronged shake mixer. “We’re just having so much fun with it,” she said.

The circa 1937 Sterling-brand diner, made by J.B. Judkins Co. in Massachusetts, was sitting in Newark, Wayne County, when Howard Zemsky found it while on a visit there. He bought it in 2013 from longtime owners Jim and Betty McBride.

Leslie Zemsky said they knew they wanted it in Larkinville, but initially “weren’t sure where we wanted to put it.” At the time, they didn’t own the Hearth, formerly the Swan Lounge.

In the meantime, the diner was transported on a flatbed truck to Diversified Diners in Akron, Ohio, for partial restoration, before it was brought to Buffalo.

“There’s so much interest,” she said. “It’s going to be fun for people from out of town. We have a huge diner mania following, so this will be its own tourism attraction.”

The project will be reviewed Monday afternoon by the Buffalo Planning Board, and will also need additional municipal approvals before site work can begin. Larkin Development owns the entire square block, so the existing 30-space parking lot will be moved back, while landscaping is added to the front. The diner will be brought on-site in September, at which point workers will install the tile floor inside and then do the addition. Zemsky said she hopes to open in the first quarter of 2017.

Also up for Planning Board consideration Monday:

• A revision to the previously approved plan by Greenleaf Development for the Campus Walk Student Housing facility at 643 Grant St.

• A proposed 40,000-square-foot addition to a warehouse at 40 Churchill St. for office use and storage.

• A sidewalk cafe in front of Perk’s Cafe & Market at 523 Main St.

• Conversion of the former Anacone’s Inn at 3178 Bailey Ave. into a deli, takeout, ice cream shop and store.

• A bar and “beach club” in Ellicott Development’s project at 399 Ohio St.


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