NEW YORK – In the wake of the closing of Vicky’s Diner, a beloved Greek-owned establishment on West 187th Street in Washington Heights, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hellenic Film Society USA will be showing the documentary film about the diner on the HFS YouTube channel.
The film, titled Vicky’s Diner- An American Story, directed by Italian-American filmmaker Chris LoDuca and released in 2016, highlights the owner Vicky Limberis, her immigrant story and how she overcame obstacles to achieve the American dream.
Rising rents had already been making it difficult to run the diner even before COVID-19, but the pandemic proved too much in the end for the owner.
Limberis spoke about her regular customers in an interview with CBS2 News, “They bring me flowers, they bring me everything. They bring me love.”
She told CBS2 that her diner “could not survive the pandemic with $8,000 in rent due every month, plus taxes, government regulations and red tape.”
“I blame a lot of people. All politicians, I blame,” Limberis said, CBS2 reported.
She immigrated from Perista, Greece in 1975, noting that she had “$50 in my pocket and I was 15 years old and no language,” she told CBS2.
After working in diners for two decades, she opened her own and developed a loyal customer following in the neighborhood. A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $15,000 as of October 2, not to reopen the diner, but to help Limberis and her staff of five employees through this uncertain time. The goal of $5,000 was surpassed in just two days.
“We’ve been coming since before we had kids. Vicky has been a big part of our lives and why our children finish their food. Because she insists they do,” said Sarah Adriance, CBS2 reported.
“The current lease was agreed to last year, and Limberis says she was given a break on two month’s rent at the beginning of the pandemic,” CBS reported, adding that “other storefronts on the small block are closing up, too. Vicky’s Diner brings the total to four.”
While the documentary film was released before the pandemic and the closing of the diner, it reminds us all how important small businesses are to the community.
The idea for Vicky’s Diner - An American Story, according to the director Chris LoDuca came from his many visits to Vicky’s Diner in the 10 years he lived in Washington Heights near the corner of 187th and Fort Washington. As the son of an Italian immigrant, he admired Vicky’s passion and intense work ethic. Eventually the two of them became friends. When LoDuca approached Vicky about making a documentary about her and her diner, she thought it over. Eventually, she warmed to the idea and allowed LoDuca full access to the diner, day or night, for two months resulting in 80+ hours of footage which he sculpted into Vicky’s Diner - An American Story.
LoDuca told TNH that “pre-production for the film started in June/July, 2015. Shooting began in early September and ended at the end of October, 2016. Post production was completed in January 2016.”
Of the closing of the diner, he said, “I’m always saddened by closings of small businesses that have a positive impact on a neighborhood. For Vicky’s, this was especially true. People will truly miss seeing Vicky and her crew for years to come.”
The film will be available for viewing on the Hellenic Film Society USA YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyltSKUHOz-k8gM-9xhPhkg.