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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

THE MUNSON DINER has been turned to face Main Street in Liberty and placed on a recently poured foundation in preparation for its opening later this year.

Coming Soon: Munchin'
At the Munson Diner

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY — August 19, 2005 – Something old will be something new in Liberty this October.
The folks behind the Munson move, which brought a 60-year-old diner from the West Side of Manhattan to the village in May, are hoping to serve up their first cup of joe this fall.
The diner was expected to open in time for Liberty’s July 4th celebration, but when the move from Manhattan encountered roadblocks, the folks at the Munson Diner Corporation (which owns the site on the corner of Lake and Main streets) reworked their schedule.
Now President Jeremy Gorelick is hoping the project should be complete in time for a grand opening that will coincide with the International Rally New York event in White Sulphur Springs in the first weekend of October.
“It would be a sort of Liberty day in October,” Gorelick explained.
The diner, perhaps best known for its guest-starring role on the hit NBC show “Seinfeld,” was rescued from razing by a Volvo dealership which bought the Munson for its location.
Village of Liberty Trustee Allan Berube was the man with the idea.
Former director of economic development for the Liberty Economic Action Plan (the precursor to the Liberty Community Development Corporation), Berube saw a tongue-in-cheek article in the New York Times in December about a diner you could buy as a Christmas present.
Berube placed a call to the American Diner Museum, which was brokering the deal for the Volvo dealers who owned the diner.
“They said, ‘That’s too bad, we’re closing tomorrow,’” Berube recalled. “But a week later I got a call – the deal fell through.”
Other buyers were interested, but one wanted to make it a high-end cocktail lounge, another was going to gut the building.
The folks in Liberty, with funds ponied up by local philanthropist Robyn Gerry, were hoping to reopen the diner as yet another section of Liberty’s “restaurant row.”
The owners liked that idea, Berube said.
“The guy selling it made us promise he’d have the first cup of coffee when we opened,” he explained.
They also liked the concept of the diner as a jumpstart to economic development.
“It’s part of rejuvenating downtown,” Berube said. “There are 12 restaurants downtown, but rather than competing with the others, this could be managed so it adds to the promotion of downtown as a place to eat breakfast and lunch.”
It’s also become a place to promote community.
The members of the diner corporation, which is in the process of buying the building from Gerry, all hail from the Liberty area.
They’re all working on a dream, Gorelick said.
“We as investors are probably not going to make any money,” he explained. “We’ve risked our own money without any expectation of getting our money back.”
With a board made up of Gorelick, Gary Silver, Brian Rourke, Anita Parkhurst and Gary Siegel, plus Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo as site supervisor, this is what Gorelick calls a “homegrown Liberty project.”
Perhaps it’s the way the Munson history intertwines with that of the village that’s tugged at the pocketbooks and heartstrings of so many residents.
“When you stand at the diner site, there’s always rubbernecking by people who drive by,” Berube said. “If you wave, people will stop and tell you their story.”
One woman remembers meeting her husband, who tended bar near the Munson, for 4 a.m. breakfasts at the diner.
Another told Berube about the times he ate there back in the 1970s.
“‘Third stool from the left,’ he said, ‘my Dentyne gum is under there,’” Berube said with a laugh.
“This brings that New York City history to Liberty which is already rich in Liberty history but rich in New York City history as well,” Berube explained. “It’s a physical piece of old New York that can’t really exist in New York anymore – it’s a good fit for Liberty.”
The Munson Diner will be the fourth diner on the Lake Street corner – filling the foundation of the Miss Liberty, Lucky’s and Bucky’s before it.
Gorelick said the goal is to find an operator who wants to run the Munson as a diner, serving up burgers and fries and stiff cups of coffee.
“It lends itself to being a diner more than anything else,” he explained.
The diner corporation is moving ahead, although they’re still looking for an operator.
The foundation has been poured, and an addition is being built.
Work will have to be done inside, but there’s less to be done than they first imagined.
“We really didn’t think it was going to be in such good shape,” Gorelick revealed. “It’s held up remarkably well, especially considering it’s more than 50 years old.”
That’s made up in part for the delays in bringing the Munson to Liberty, but Gorelick said other challenges are likely to crop up along the way.
“This has been such a crazy and convoluted ride, I don’t know what to expect other than the unexpected!” he said with a laugh.
That said, Gorelick is cautiously optimistic that there will be a fall 2005 opening for the Munson Diner in Liberty.
“I think we all have our fingers crossed that it’s going to go as we planned,” he said.

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