May 9, 2014
08:33 AM
Connecticut Today

New Haven Staple, Forbes Diner, Given New Life in Salisbury

New Haven Staple, Forbes Diner, Given New Life in Salisbury

Melanie Stengel/New Haven Register

The front half of Forbes Diner was driven to Salisbury late Wednesday night (May 7).

 After six years in diner limbo on a back lot in Fair Haven, steam will rise and plates will clatter again at the sleek former Forbes Diner.

Long a beacon for truckers and a community meeting place for breakfast, lunch and political pow wows in its decades beneath the Interstate 95 “Q” bridge, the Forbes is off to a new life — albeit outside of New Haven.

Check out the New Haven Register's photo gallery of the move here. 

The good news is, it’s not going all that far and, when it’s finished, you’ll be able to go there for breakfast or lunch.

The front half of the stainless steel diner rolled off to a new life in Salisbury, up in Litchfield County, late Wednesday night, with no fewer than five state troopers and four city cops for an escort.

Forbes Diner is not the only iconic Connecticut diner to be moved in the last year, Torrington's Skee's Diner was moved for restoration in April 2013. Check out the Register Citizen's story about that move here. 

Dozens of Fair Haven residents came to watch as the movers negotiated the still well-preserved 1957 Fodero diner past low-hanging trees and other obstacles.

“I had coffee and breakfast there a bunch of times!” said Owen McKeon, who has lived on Ferry Street near the northbound Interstate 91 entrance since before I-91 was built.

McKeon and his wife, Pat — who cooks in another city icon, the B & M Quality Delicatessen on Ferry Street — were there gawking along with dozens of their neighbors at the unlikely site of seeing a classic diner rolling down the street and then very slowly rounding the corner onto I-91.

(Photo of Forbes Diner being moved, right. Photo by Melanie Stengel/New Haven Register.)

“I didn’t know what was going on,” said Pat McKeon. “I thought something drastic was going on. Then I saw the diner.”

The front vestibule was removed and trucked up to Salisbury earlier. The back half will follow shortly.

Watch reporter Mark Zaretsky's Tout of the diner being strapped in for its big move.

The diner was kept safe all that time by its most recent operator, Helmi Elsayed Mohamed “Mo” Ali, a resourceful guy who a little over a decade and a half ago moved Ansonia’s former New State Diner to become the New Star Diner, where the old Star Diner once stood on Lombard Street.

For the past six years, the Forbes Diner stood behind it, although it was largely unnoticed by all but immediate neighbors and diner aficianados.

(Recent owner, "Mo" Ali, taking photo of the diner, above. Photo by Melanie Stengel/New Haven Register.)

The Forbes Diner’s original owners, the Ezold family, closed it in 1994, but it reopened in 1998. Ali, who struggled for years to keep the Forbes going amid high costs and marginal business, finally agreed to sell the property after several years of Dunkin’ Donuts overtures.

But he convinced the buyers to let him move the diner rather than demolish it.

Unfortunately, Ali, who wanted to reopen in or near New Haven and had multiple conversations with city officials and even former East Haven Mayor April Capone toward that end, was never able to work out a new location for the Forbes.

While wistful, he said he is glad that someone else will reopen and light it up again.

“Sure, I’m going to miss it” but “life goes on, I guess...” said Ali, a native of Egypt who seems to have been born with diners in his blood. He’s pleased, however, because “we will make it over again and we will serve the people again.

“Hopefully the new owner will do a good job,” Ali said. “It’s going to be better, hopefully.”

New owner Ken Schechter, a Long Island-bred former Manhattanite who now lives in Salisbury, said he bought it because he’s always been a fan of diners and wants to have a place where folks in Salisbury can all come and hang out.

“Our goal was to save it, restore it and have it serve the community,” Schecter said.

Schechter, who is seeking a partner to operate the diner, which is now on a lot off Library Street in Salisbury, said he expects it to offer “somewhat classic” diner fare, although he’d also love to see it mix in some “farm to table” food as part of that. He plans to take his time restoring it, but hopes New Haveners will come visit once in a while once it opens.

For the full story and everything the New Haven Register has to offer, click here.

To learn more about Skee's Diner in Torrington, read updates on the Register Citizen's website. 

 

New Haven Staple, Forbes Diner, Given New Life in Salisbury

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