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Future Diner enters into history with closing

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"We're all devastated," said longtime resident and civic activist Edna Harris of the closing, which happened early last week. "It's so unfortunate when you see things go."Though the name of the restaurant at 61-09 190th St. was changed to Kafenio and Grill a few years back, most regulars continued referring to the place as the Future Diner, and the front awning still bears the name.Opened in 1991, the diner within the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center earned itself a name when Bill Clinton ate at there once while campaigning as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1992 and then again as president in 1993.But, according to residents, it was the convenient location, good food and spacious booths that made the establishment a staple in the community's diet.Harris remembers eating there either before or after she and her husband saw a movie at the theater next door. Others, she said, would break there for a snack or coffee while shopping at the newly opened Kohl's Department Store or at Kmart before that. "It was the perfect place," she said. "Big and airy and the food was great."Nonetheless, the diner felt financial strains for several years that eventually proved destructive."We worked with them for many years and went to great lengths to help settle any money problems, but unfortunately they were unable to meet their financial obligations," said Stephanie Blank, a spokeswoman for Federal Realty, which owns the property. The owner of Future Diner at the time it was shuttered was not listed on the city's Finance and Buildings department records. Messages left for Michael Rigatos, who at one point was the restaurant's owner, went unreturned.Blank indicated there has been some interest from businesses to occupy the now-vacant space, but it was too soon to speculate who it might be. Harris, however, said there was talk in the community of an Asian grocery store becoming the new tenant -- a prospect that sounded to her like an acceptable alternative to the Future Diner. Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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