Those saddened to see what used to be Rosie’s Diner carted away hoped the vintage greasy spoon would be cared for once it left what used to be the Little Ferry Circle on Route 46.
Didn’t turn out that way.
Not only is the diner that was made famous in a TV commercial for the “quicker picker-upper” gone. So is its beauty.
The tale can be told through the exploits of different people.
George DenHerder is among those who’ve visited Rosie’s Farmland Diner at its current address in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Carlstadt native went there carrying decades-old memories of his mom dropping him off at Rosie's on the circle -- a traffic configuration that was once very popular in the Garden State.
With just a dollar, DenHerder got himself a burger, fries and a shake while his mother shopped on the opposite side of Bergen Turnpike at what was once Valley Fair in the shadow of the Winant Avenue Bridge over the Hackensack River.
The Rosie’s that he found in Michigan isn’t the one that DenHerder knew, however.
“It’s really a sad sight,” he wrote.
Built in 1946 by the Paramount Dining Car Company, the stainless-steel Silver Dollar Diner was assembled in two sections.
It evolved into a convenient stop just off the New Jersey Turnpike and Routes 80 and 46 while becoming an attraction for area locals as well as advertisers.
Commercials were made for Pepsi, Sanka, Sony, Ethan Allen and New Jersey Bell (with James Earl Jones), among others. But it was Proctor & Gamble that put the 24-by-60-foot iconic eatery on the cultural map.
It also gave the joint a new name.
Nancy Walker was an actress and comedian whose dry wit played well on TV shows such as “McMillan & Wife.”
Flash-forward to a commercial with clumsy customers spilling their beverages. Here comes Nancy Walker, playing a waitress, to save the day.
“Thanks, Rosie,” they say.
Walker went on to play Rosie from 1970 to 1990, embossing the “quicker picker-upper” catchphrase of Bounty paper towels on the minds of countless viewers.
The commercial not only got her the role of Ida Morgenstern on “Rhoda” -- it also re-branded the Silver Dollar.
Ralph Corrado Jr., like most restaurant owners, knew that you can’t eat prestige.
Corrado had inherited the diner from his father after working beside him for many years. He offered Rosie’s to the Smithsonian, but museum officials weren’t interested. Eventually, the Hoboken native had to put it up for sale.
If no one bought it, Rosie’s unfortunately would have to be demolished, Corrado said.
Jerry Berta, a sculptor from Michigan, was attending a crafts show in Manhattan in November 1989 when he took a side trip back to Rosie’s. Berta had been there years before, and the visit turned him into a diner aficionado.
This time, he walked out with not only a full stomach. Berta had made a handshake deal with Corrado, agreeing to buy the diner for $10,000.
Rosie’s served its last meal during what became an eventful January 1990 weekend. Both CNN and the Associated Press covered the three-day farewell, which drew hundreds of customers and diner devotees.
Soon after, Berta moved Rosie’s 700 miles northwest to Rockford, MI, and set it down on a plot next to his diner-devoted art studio showroom, housed in another rescue.
The Rockford Rosie's reopened on July 5, 1991. Berta ran into money problems, though, forcing him to sell soon after. The new owner closed Rosie's in 2011 (continued below).
The owner of a nearby car dealership bought the diner for $125,000 at auction a year later. He offered tours during car shows in the parking lot. But then those ended.
Dreamers as recently as three years ago talked of possibly restoring Rosie’s, but nothing ever happened. Now it's little more than a stainless steel shell, a deteriorating reminder of better days. The windows have been busted out and the floor is too weak to hold much weight.
It won’t be long before Rosie’s is sold for scrap -- a lifetime away from the Little Ferry Circle.
DenHerder spoke for many when he called it sad to see a piece of history rot away.
For him, as for them, there will still be images -- and memories.
Larry Cultrera, a diner buff himself, assembled photos of Rosie’s from over the years, including its removal on a trailer: Rosie's Diner (YouTube)
There’s also a Rosie’s Diner Facebook page.
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