Owner Nancy Morozin has been convinced. Just a week and a half after she ended 24-hour service at The Dining Car, she’s decided to bring the 57-year tradition back — on weekends.
Starting Thursday, Aug. 24, the Northeast Philly diner will be open nonstop from Thursday morning through Sunday at 10 p.m. From Sunday through Wednesday, it will close at 10 p.m. (an hour later than originally planned).
It was the phone calls. The emails. The Facebook messages. The tweets.
Morozin was getting at least one message an hour from customers lamenting the end of the all-nighter era, she said. But the last straw, the final factor that made the difference, was the handwritten letters.
“They sent letters to my 92-year-old dad’s house!” Morozin told Billy Penn. She had advised her father of the changes she had planned for the restaurant he handed down to her, and Joe Morozin told his daughter he understood. But once the personal letters from friends began showing up at his door, he took a stand. “He comes down here all upset — he thinks the sky is falling!”
Joe Morozin was one of several voices urging his daughter to reconsider.
“Everywhere I went, people were telling me, ‘Really, Nancy? Really?’” she said, recounting incidents at Sam’s Club, the bank, and “everywhere I go.” A former Dining Car manager, Roz Roth, who now works at Parx Casino, called up her onetime boss and gave her the business: “Nancy, what the hell are you doing?! All my high-rollers are telling me to call you and get you to change your mind.”
Morozin was already nervous about her decision to cut back hours at the popular spot, which was a community gathering space as much as a place to fuel up on comfort food. She didn’t see the overnight business growing — in fact, she saw it trending the other direction, thanks to services like UberEATS. “People would rather sit in their pajamas and pay $7 to have fries brought to their house.”
So she made the change, thinking she’d also be able to get a little more time to herself, at age 61, and for her nonprofit work in the local and food communities. But she didn’t anticipate the public outcry would be so severe — or that she herself would have such misgivings.
“I would sit in my car in the parking lot, and when I looked at [the diner] and it was dark, I was beside myself,” Morozin said. “It wasn’t all that hard to throw my leg back over the fence.”
She put out feelers among her staff, and most of them were thrilled about the return of the night shift. Even Pepe the night manager, who she gave a different daytime position, told her to do it. “Yeah, go ahead [and change it back],” he told her. “I gotta have something to do.”
Morozin said the experience had been gratifying and interesting.
“I learned that you do not just blink away 60 years of tradition,” she said. She feels like she’s reached a good compromise by opening 24 hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday only.
“Those are the busy nights anyway,” Morozin said. “Hopefully people will love me again instead of want to strangle me.”