Rena Tsopanides hugged a customer and said, “Bye my love,” in typical Rena fashion as the Kimberly Diner prepared to close its doors last weekend after 43 years in business.
Rena-fashion is hugs and kisses, something co-workers and longtime customers say they will miss.
“She’s always positive,” said Merve Boluk, a bus girl at the Boston Post Road diner for 13 years, when describing Rena Tsopanides, the matriarch of this longtime family diner.
The diner closed last Sunday because the property had been sold to the car dealership across the street. A Colonial Toyota spokesperson said the diner will be knocked down and the property will become a parking lot for Colonial employees.
Tim Tsopanides said the family always intended to buy the property, and thought that eventually they would. But the former owner of the land died before such a transaction could take place, the family said.
Rena said her father, Demos Kalmanides, whose picture graced the sign on top of the diner for many years, used to say they should buy the land. The sign fell down after Hurricane Sandy, after weathering many a storm: Rena said it was her father expressing displeasure over the fact that the diner was destined to close.
Tim’s parents, who hail from Greece, owned Rosie’s Luncheonette in Norwalk before taking over the diner in Milford. It was named for the daughter of the former owner, who had it up and running less than 10 years before the Tsopanideses and Kalmanideses took it over.
“My mom, dad, aunt and uncle started it together,” Tim said. “It was open 24 hours back then, and my mom and dad would work the day shift, and my aunt and uncle the night shift.”
Tim was only six years old when his family started the diner, and he and his brother, who has since died, sort of grew up here. They knew the police officers who were regulars; they knew a lot of people who made Milford the city it is today, like the late Judge Marty McKeever, who regularly stopped in to eat.
“Milford was a different town then,” Tim said.
Tim plans to team with two partners and turn his attention on another Milford landmark: Paul’s Hamburgers. Paul’s closed in 2008 and has been empty since. Tim said he and his partners plan to reopen it, keeping the Paul’s name and incorporating a wider menu.
“We’’ll combine two Milford institutions,” Tim said.
The old Paul’s will seat 70, compared to the 84 the diner seats, Tim said. Plus there are 25 seats outside at park benches.
The new Paul’s will serve breakfast, hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken, fish, soups, salads and fruit smoothies, Tim said, noting the menu will be bigger than the old Paul’s, but smaller than Kimberly’s.
Rena, who is used to heading to work at 3 a.m., will help her sister out at the Blue Sky Diner in Stratford until Paul’s opens.
“Then she’ll come and help me out,” Tim said.
City permits and applications have yet to be filed, according to city officials, but Tim said he hopes to have everything in place to open in October.