As the dawn of a new decade approaches, Great Neck Diner owner Rorie Miller took some time to reflect on this past one, in which she and her father opened their doors to the community.
“I can’t believe that we’ve been opened for this long already,” Miller said. “My parents put so much work into this business, and the immediate response we’ve gotten has been so amazing.”
Miller runs the diner with her father Mike Wach, who purchased the diner in 2009 after the longstanding Frederick’s closed down. Miller and her father renovated the building, which used to sell cigarettes and magazines, and created a more wholesome dining establishment.
“We saw that there could definitely be improvements and modernizations to the building and business,” she said. “We came in and started making a more family-friendly and classic diner experience.”
The older generations of customers will still come into the establishment and reminisce of their time in the very same building where they experienced their first egg-cream or had their first kiss. Miller said she and her father love being a place in town where residents can come and discuss their nostalgia over a cup of coffee.
“It’s wonderful to hear everyone’s stories and memories when they come in,” she said. “I grew up in Port Washington, and never really immersed myself in the community and knew all of the people. In the past 10 years, there are very few people that enter the store whose name I don’t know.”
According to Miller, around 90 percent of the diner’s clients are in and around the Great Neck area. She said that the local support from the community has driven the business to heights, not even she believed were attainable.
“We’re not right off of a highway, so not many people will come from far away to see us, but having this diner be a community-based one is what makes it so special,” Miller said. “My background is in marketing and advertisement and when my dad reached out to ask me to run the diner with him, I took a big leap and wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out. But it has been better than I could have ever imagined.”
Despite not getting as much foot traffic as larger diners or chain restaurants may see throughout the course of the day, Miller said the diner feeds some who wish to make the trek for quality service and food. During the interview, a frequent customer from Bayside named Marty came in and gave Miller holiday cards for her children.
“Customers like Marty are one of the reasons why we love having a business in Great Neck,” Miller said. “We always want to make people feel like they are family when they walk in the door, and in turn, they make us feel like we are part of their families.”
“I pass six diners on my way over here each day,” Marty said. “And each time I do, I just wave them goodbye, because I know I’m going to the best one around.”
Miller touted the dishes that the diner has incorporated into their menu that many customers have enjoyed. She also said that most everything that the diner has to offer is made fresh in the diner.
“We pride ourselves on breakfast, lunch, and dinner all being made properly with fresh ingredients,” Miller said. “Our menu features community favorites like challah french toast, corned beef hash, Cobb salad, salmon, and a Great Neck burger. Our seven soups are also made fresh each day. There is something for everyone.”
Though not a Great Neck native, Miller said she and her father have become increasingly familiar with the community, and are excited to remain a part of it for decades to follow their first one.
“My father and I are so grateful to be a part of this community,” she said. “The people have been supportive and come in so frequently to express their genuine gratitude for our business. When people come in just to tell you that, it makes you feel like you’re doing something right, and I think we are.”