By Naeisha Rose
The Flagship Diner closed its doors forever Sunday to a packed house of loyal customers who came to say goodbye to their favorite dining establishment in Briarwood.
“I wanted to see it one last time,” said Dion Kekatos, a decade-long customer who ordered an omelet for himself and his wife Deppie. “I knew it wasn’t going to be here again.”
For 53 years, the 24/7 international diner served thousands of customers at 138-30 Queens Blvd. with the help of owners Vincent Pupplo, Jimmy Skartsiaris and Frank Launtzis.
“I’m kind of torn and it’s bittersweet,” said Pupplo. “It’s been a very stressful year. We’ve been in litigation and it was a very hard year. Now that is over, there is relief, but there is also sorrow.”
On July 14, 2016, the land where the diner is located was bought by White Rock Management for $6.125 million, according to online real estate website NY Yimby. On Aug. 8, 2016 the new landlord filed an application to convert the space into a 64-unit, seven-story apartment complex, which would be spread across 43,610 square feet.
The three owners initially intended to keep the eatery open until its lease expired on Oct. 29, 2019, which would have been 13 months from now, according to Pupplo.
On Sept. 19, 2017, the owners sued the landlord for harassment over what they called “bogus” repair complaints, but as the court proceedings went on, they eventually agreed to a second settlement with White Rock Management, so they could retire in peace. They could not disclose the terms.
“The legal bills were mounting faster than I could pay them,” said Pupplo. “When they offered a deal, which included paying those legal fees, I had to take it. We fought them for almost a year, but it cost to much to fight them.”
The three owners each have two sons who grew up working for the business as waiters.
“It’s a family place,” said Pupplo.
Skartsiaris was emotional about having to close the diner’s doors for the last time at 3 p.m.
“The workers are here with us and we are going down when the ship goes down,” said Skartsiaris, who called in favors to find employment for his staff of 45. “I wish everybody good luck and I want to thank our customers who supported us for so many years.”
One of those customers was Clarence Pollard, a customer of 50 years who came with four generations of family members, including his great grandchildren.
“I had grits, eggs, home fries, bacon and sausage,” said Pollard. “The food is good and I never complained. The service was always good.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose