By Rich Bockmann
After decades of slinging hash for Bell Boulevard’s hungry patrons, the Gold Star Diner quietly closed its doors last week, possibly for the final time.
Owner Chris Axamidis said he received an attractive offer from a buyer and decided, with a heavy heart, to sell the restaurant he owned and ran for 11 years.
“I appreciate the business we’ve had and all the people. The decision took a lot of thought, but at the end I couldn’t refuse it,” he said last Thursday as the eatery on the corner of 42nd Avenue hummed during lunch hour. “I’m really going to miss it — especially the employees.”
Manager Sonia Herrera, one of 12 employees, said she was sad to be leaving the restaurant she started working at soon after it opened, but looked back on her time there with fond memories.
“I’ll remember a lot of busy times behind the counter in order to give [customers] good service,” she said, adding that the first thing she did upon hearing the news was apologize to her co-workers “for all the arguments.”
“In 11 years, we’ve known a lot of people here. Some people come in and they’re dating, then they come in as boyfriend and girlfriend, then we hear the news that they’re engaged and next they come in with their baby,” she said. “Especially in a place like this, a family diner, you get attached to people.”
Axamidis said he planned to take about 50 percent of the Gold Star’s employees and move them over to another restaurant he owns, the Silver Moon Diner on Hillside Avenue in Queens Village.
“If I could take 100 percent, I would do that,” he said. “My motto was always, ‘When I got somebody good, I make sure I keep them.’”
Gold Star served up four different kinds of soup each weekday and six different kinds on the weekends, and as Lenny Amitin enjoyed one of his last bowls of French onion soup from the eatery, he bemoaned the loss of the place he said had visited for the last 15 years.
“You can’t meet nicer people. I don’t know what I’m going to do without this place,” he said just before a heaping plate of beef stroganoff was placed in front of him.
Amitin and his two dining companions, Iris Barbarito and Janice Czerw, live in the same building not far off Bell, and they said they visited the diner every day.
“This place is going to be very much missed — it’s like family,” Barbarito said.
It was not known what the new owner’s plans were for the restaurant.
“My only hope is that it doesn’t become another Flushing — not personalized,” she said, pointing out that a number of small businesses had left the boulevard in the past year. “This whole community is like a family. You feel it because you know them.”
“Where’s Lenny going to go?” she asked, drawing a guffaw from her friend as he looked up from his plate.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.