HUBBARD - It may fly under a different banner, but business has been steady at the recently transplanted Emerald Diner.
The iconic restaurant that was heavily damaged in an August fire is now operating as the Eagles Nest restaurant inside the Hubbard VFW Post 3767 on West Liberty Street. The antique trolley car that previously housed the 825 N. Main St. eatery was damaged by fire on Aug. 28.
The restaurant's owner / operator, Robert Reizian, received word that the VFW hall needed help the day the fire occurred. The joint venture has since resulted in an arrangement suitable to both parties.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie L. Hazen
Customers look over the menu Tuesday evening at the Eagles Nest restaurant, located inside Hubbard VFW Post 3767. The restaurant is being operated by staff of the Emerald Diner. Shown, from left, are Mary Jo Knuth, 52, of Liberty; JoAnn Knuth, 80, of Hubbard; and Janet White, 57, of Girard. The restaurant is holding a grand opening Nov. 1 to 4.
"They have gone out of their way to help," Reizian said of the VFW members. "They wanted to make it a family atmosphere."
The new location, Reizian said, is four times the size of the former one, which could only hold approximately 40 patrons. The new location can hold 126 guests, and the kitchen also is three times as large, allowing the diner to expand its menu options.
Now the restaurant is holding a grand opening Nov. 1 to 4.
VFW Post 3767 Commander Bob Orr of Hubbard said they were happy to house the restaurant. "(The diner) has been doing absolutely fantastic," he said. "We kind of hit it off right from the start."
In lieu of rent, the restaurant makes a donation to the hall, which in turn is given to community organizations such as the Hubbard police (both city and township), Hubbard fire department and the Hubbard Public Library.
And giving back to the community is "what makes this building so unique," Reizian said.
Orr said customers do not have to be a member of the VFW hall to dine there, and so far they have been receiving a great response from the community.
JoAnn Knuth, 80, of Hubbard, dining recently, said the hall felt more relaxing due to the extra room. She said she doesn't miss the old diner and sees great potential in the restaurant's new home.
"They can hold more people," agreed Janet White, 57, of Girard, but said she prefers the nostalgic atmosphere of the former location.
Mary Jo Knuth, 52, of Liberty, said she'll keep patronizing the new location as long as the food is good.
Reizian said the bar is divided from the dining area, and VFW members have helped with the renovation, including signs, plumbing, lighting and waxing the floors.
The train car, built in 1929, was purchased and brought to the area by Hubbard businessman Jim Marsh in 1994. Marsh worked on extensive renovation of the trolley, which became a community landmark. He was out of town when the fire occurred.
Marsh said the damage well exceeds what his insurance will cover, but said he definitely plans on rebuilding. He will restore the original car if feasible, he said, but expects costs to amount to several thousand dollars.
Renovation of the damaged diner will begin within the next couple of months, and Marsh said he anticipates it being completed by next fall.
The damage from the blaze was contained to the dining room and no injuries were reported. An investigation by the state fire marshal and Hubbard Fire Department did not find any evidence of criminal intent, although the cause of the fire - initially believed to be an electrical malfunction - was undetermined.
Reizian said the restaurant won't move out of the VFW hall even if the former location is rebuilt, although he would consider operating a second restaurant.
"This has given us a better opportunity," he said. "We plan on keeping it permanent as long as customers are happy."