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Gwinnett Diner reopens after three-week hiatus

Staff photo: Tyler Estep. The Gwinnett Diner closed three weeks ago but will re-open next week under new management. Opened in 1974 as a Huddle House, the restaurant was featured in films such as "Road Trip."

Staff photo: Tyler Estep. The Gwinnett Diner closed three weeks ago but will re-open next week under new management. Opened in 1974 as a Huddle House, the restaurant was featured in films such as "Road Trip."

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Under new ownership and thanks to help from the community, the Gwinnett Diner will reopen next week.

The historic diner known for casual conversation and its role in recent Hollywood movies shut down following its final day of business July 10, then-owner Vickie Fussell citing the poor economy and a dwindling customer base. Since then, however, an influx of "private donations and contributions from the community" has made the restaurant's resuscitation possible for new owner Amy Mulkey.

"People donated their time helping get it back together, they donated products, they made up menus for us at no cost," Mulkey said Friday. "Pretty nice people."

When the Gwinnett Diner reopens at 6 a.m. Monday, guests will be introduced to a new, if not similar, menu full of "good ol' Southern cooking," Mulkey said -- daily home-cooked specials and all-you-can-eat lunches will include black-eyed peas, cornbread, pork chops, fried chicken and collard greens.

The same wait staff of five will be back at the diner near the intersection of Scenic Highway and Gwinnett Drive.

"(The waitresses) were ecstatic, because it was kind of a shock to them when it closed up to begin with," Mulkey said.

The diner drew headlines when Jennifer Aniston and Alan Alda shot scenes for their upcoming film "Wanderlust" there last October. The restaurant was also the setting for the infamous "French toast scene" in the 2000 Tom Green flick "Road Trip."

Rumor has it that the diner, which opened in 1974 as a Huddle House, also had a cameo in the 1981 Burt Reynolds feature "Cannonball Run."

Mulkey, also the owner of a local roofing and remodeling company, was a manager at the Gwinnett Diner in 2008 and 2009, she said. She said she's planning to hold monthly special events like '60s dress-up competitions and karaoke to try and build up a waning customer base and "bring everybody from Lawrenceville together once again."

"People have been coming here for 34 years," Mulkey said. "It's a neighborhood place where people come to talk, they drink the coffee, they talk about everybody. It's just an awesome little place that's family oriented."

Despite its recent economic turmoil, Mulkey is optimistic about the diner's future.

"With the customer base that we have now, and with building new customers," she said, "I think we're going to be just fine."