As a fast-talking auctioneer sold off the pots and pans that once cooked many a favorite meal at the Scobee Diner in Little Neck, the restaurant’s former manager watched as the iconic venue was emptied, leaving only memories of an institution residents said was irreplaceable.
“It’s hard to imagine Scobee not being here,” said Jose Rodriguez, a Whitestone resident who worked at the Scobee Diner for the past 17 years and was manager for six of those years. “My father worked here for 30 some years. My grandfather worked here. I was 13 when I said to my father, ‘Why don’t you bring me to work,’ and I never left. We’re family here.”
The diner, at 252-29 Little Neck Pkwy., closed its doors for good Sunday when people came from all over the country — and even from Italy — to say goodbye to Scobee, which has been a staple in Little Neck for more than 40 years. The physical building has been a diner for more than 70 years, and former CIA Director George Tenet’s family owned the diner that preceded the Scobee. Tenet was a busboy at the diner when he was a teenager.
The restaurant closed because the owners said they were unable to extend their lease with the landlord, the Hageman family, who they said wanted to at least double the rent they were paying.
On Tuesday, professional auctioneer Michael Amodeo came to Scobee to sell off anything left in the restaurant, including dining room chairs, tables, grills, broilers, stoves, walk-in refrigerators and freezers, pots, pans, silverware and countless other items. About 50 people attended the auction, many of them from diners in the borough.
Steve Bonom, the son of one of Scobee’s original partners, Oscar Bonom, said he planned on buying some chairs and other goods for the group homes run by a nonprofit, Adult Resources Center, for which he volunteers. Bonom began working as a busboy at Scobee and eventually became a manager before he left in 1980 to open his own restaurant in Port Washington, L.I.
“It was a great experience growing up here,” Bonom said. “I learned so much. It’s like losing part of your family, this place closing.”
Most of Bonom’s family worked at Scobee, including his sister Sandra Bonom — who had continued to work there on weekends until it closed — his daughter and his niece. A photo of his father, a star football player at Columbia University, had been hung on a Scobee wall for decades, and Bonom, who grew up in Sunnyside, remembered well how his father would start baking at Scobee around 3 a.m. and would not return to his home until after 6 p.m.
Michael Rollhaus, of Kew Gardens Hills, attended the auction not to purchase anything but to see who would buy the furniture he has been making for Scobee for the past three decades.
“I’ve made at least two or three sets of booths for them here,” Rollhaus said. “I was really shocked to hear they were closing. It was an icon, this place. It’s really sad. I suppose it’s a sign of the times.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2010 Community News Group
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