The Swank Building still stands tall inside Paul Reighard’s soon-to-open Main Street diner.
The Embassy Theatre’s movie marquee advertises “Slap Shot” for tonight’s showing, and a bright orange 1960s-era trolley sits parked nearby.
Most of it isn’t real, of course. But for Reighard, the colorful, carefully crafted scene is the perfect backdrop for Johnstown’s Hey Day Diner, an homage to both a city he loves and an era when diners like the Busy Bee and Tops dotted downtown Johnstown.
“My parents first met each other at Tops Diner,” Reighard said, noting that he, too, has fond memories of exploring Main Street as a boy. “To me, I couldn’t imagine opening a restaurant anywhere else. I grew up down here.”
Set to open next week, the Roxbury man and his family said they plan to serve up warm memories alongside hot plates of “comfort food” at their 526 Main St. location. Many menu items, like meatloaf sandwiches, pot roast and home-cooked daily dinner specials seem right at home in a diner dressed mostly in 1950s, ’60s and ’70s keepsakes.
“Hot turkey sandwiches, pork chops, burgers. There’s going to be a lot of the traditional diner food,” said Michelle Reighard, Paul’s wife and one of several family members who will be busy running the diner, which will be open seven days a week.
Breakfast dishes like biscuits with sausage and gravy, French toast and pancakes also will be offered daily, she said.
The family said they hope customers will keep coming back for their homestyle food.
But Paul Reighard said folks could visit their restaurant several times without noticing all of the Johnstown area keepsakes it showcases.
He pointed to a metal Johnstown Liquor Co. serving tray that he said dates back to the days before prohibition as one example.
Old Johnstown Jets programs also are displayed, as well as old glassware and a faded red Moxham National Bank bag.
A longtime contractor, Reighard relied on his construction background for the rest. A front lobby area resembles a drive-in, where a projector will display a slide show of images from decades past.
The diner’s counter evokes the stone bridge and a set of booths are enclosed by what resembles a Johnstown trolley.
But Reighard seemed particularly proud of a three-dimensional, drywall-made Swank Building replica.
“I just couldn’t let it die,” he said of the onetime Main Street landmark. “We tried to get it as close as we could to the old building.”
The family has been working at the former Kentucky Fried Chicken location since November, he said.
A final occupancy permit is the last remaining hurdle. But the Reighards said they expect to have that in place in the coming days.
They plan to be open for Thunder in the Valley, which Reighard called a “great opportunity to get our feet wet,” as well as a chance to share some of Johnstown’s stories with visitors.
David Hurst is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.