Kane’s Flushing Diner will turn off its oven permanently on May 1 after the more than 50-year-old restaurant was sold to a Chinese real estate developer. An owner told the World Journal on April 25 that she doesn’t want to see the restaurant closed because it is filled with the memories of her family. But she won’t hold grudges against Chinese immigrants because of this. She said, indeed, she thinks the influx of Chinese has helped make Flushing safer and more popular.
Ernie Kane, an immigrant from Greece, purchased the restaurant located at 44-15 College Point Blvd. with his brother in October 1968 and changed its name to “Kane’s Flushing Diner.” They decorated the restaurant in a simple and cozy “granny’s kitchen” style serving American fast food 24/7. When Ernie died in 2008, his son George and twin daughters Toni and Patricia took it over. Toni, who now lives in Florida, came back to the restaurant on April 25 to serve the customers one last time. “Like all new immigrants, we were poor then. My father bought the restaurant when we were small,” recalled Toni. “In the beginning, he only had four employees. He was so busy that he didn’t seem to sleep. My sister and I helped in the restaurant starting when we were 10.”
Toni said, in the past 51 years, her family grew with the restaurant and witnessed the changes in Flushing. She said Flushing was a place marred by burglaries and robberies with many homeless people hanging around. It only got safer and more developed as Asian newcomers opened their own restaurants and shops one after another. She said Flushing was an obscure place until 20 years ago when the development started. “Our whole family is grateful to Chinese and Asian immigrants,” Toni said. “I and my employees all know how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Chinese.”
But the restaurant’s business had been struggling recently because of rising utility costs in New York and higher minimum wages. But the “last straw” came when George was diagnosed was cancer. He decided to sell the restaurant. “My sister and I didn’t know until prospective buyers came to visit,” said Toni. “We were so heartbroken.”
Toni said she understands that the growing population of New York demands more housing. A liquor shop the family owned was already sold to an Asian buyer. “But we didn’t want to sell this restaurant so soon because that will make the employees lose their jobs,” Toni said.
Sergio Morales, a waiter who has been working there for 12 years, said he likes the working environment and his bosses. Now the restaurant is closing and he doesn’t know what he will do next. “This is like my home,” Morales said.
The restaurant was purchased by Chinese developer Kenny Liu for $15 million. Liu has built several residential buildings in Flushing and Rego Park.