NEW JERSEY – Tom Seretis of Ledgewood, NJ spoke with The National Herald about his determination to revive his father's historic diner, despite the pressures and difficulties. Tom's Diner, until 2004, it was the second oldest diner in New Jersey and very popular in the area.
Built in Paterson, NJ, circa 1937, it is one of the oldest existing vintage Silk City Diners in the world. Silk City Diners was a division of the Paterson Wagon Company, later known at Paterson Vehicle Company, and produced 1500 such diners from 1926-66. Several have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Scenes from Cindy Lauper's Time After Time music video were shot at Tom's Diner. "I was there during the filming, my father initially wanted me to be in the video, but he changed his mind because I had long hair,” Tom Seretis remembers.
The story of the Seretis family in America begins with his grandfather, who left Eleftheriani, Nafpaktia in 1934, to work in the USA and later brought his two children, after the unexpected loss of his wife. He managed to grow his business by selling peanuts and making countless sacrifices to build a future. In 1958, he acquired the historic Silver Dollar Diner, which he renamed Tom's Diner. The business then passed to Frank Seretis – father of Tom Seretis the younger – and his wife, Pauline. Over the years, Tom's Diner evolved into a new benchmark with significant distinctions.
"My father continued working until the last moment. This diner was his life. The only time he went on holiday to Greece was in 1994. He would never leave the diner," recalls Tom Seretis.
Tom's Diner operated until the sudden death of Frank Seretis on Good Friday 2004. Since then, practical operational issues as well as technical problems in the area – due to a leak reported by a nearby gas station – have led to the closure of the diner. Nevertheless, especially in recent years, Tom Seretis has never abandoned the idea of reopening.
“When my father died, I had a number of issues to resolve. Unfortunately, I’m under siege from the city authorities themselves, as they’re trying to force me to sell the land to get the diner building out of here. But I am determined to open it again. We did a study and it turned out that the leak from the gas station no longer affects the diner's space,” says Seretis who works as a real estate agent.
Seretis has now launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $552,000. As he noted, this money will go towards renovating and reopening the diner, as well as pledging to give back with charitable efforts for the community.
“We will have a public benefit. We will support veterans, children with disabilities and contribute meals. Whatever money we receive, will go back to the community through these efforts.”
In addition, he still rejects proposals from various parties offering to buy the property, culminating in the offer made by the Wawa retail chain.
“Wawa offered me the sum of $2 million to sell the property so they could build a store. But I refused. I was called crazy, but I know very well the prices in the area and the value in the long run,” concludes Seretis.
More information about the GoFundMe campaign is available online: https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-historic-toms-diner-2020-roxbury-nj.