Milford Diner reopens under new owners

Terri Rosetta and Brian Stabell have worked hard over the last year to reopen the Milford Diner. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

The Milford Diner is open for business.

Lifelong friends Terri Rosetta and Brian Stabell of Felton have given the former hot spot a new shine with an excitement that fills the hearts of their customers.

“This was kind of our 50th birthday present and early retirement plan,” Ms. Rosetta joked.

A love of cooking and growing food together led the way for the couple as they sorted through business ideas looking for a change after she spent decades working in the medical industry and he worked in various fields. Eventually, they landed on the Diner, almost by happenstance.

“Every Sunday, she would start getting sad and depressed. She knew she had to go to work the next day. I said at one point that I wanted to get her out of there before it kills her,” Mr. Stabell said.

The pair started brainstorming for new options.

“We wanted a food truck, so we could go from festival to festival just Brian and I. But, then my mom’s health and my dad’s health and everybody’s health in the family went down, so we tried to change plans,” Ms. Rosetta said.

Last fall, Mr. Stabell spoke with local businessman John Bogan about the possibility of opening a sandwich shop in one of his vacant locations.

“So, he said, ‘I own the Diner. Why would I want to do that,’” according to Mr. Stabell.

Without that option, the Felton resident took a job in Florida to help the pair raise money for their future food truck while Ms. Rosetta continued working closer to home.

Then, he received a call from Mr. Bogan.

“John said, ‘Look, I’m not going to sell it. You can assume the mortgage,” Mr. Stabell said. “When they showed us how much it was going to cost to get in here, we said that’s a no brainer. The location is the best location for any diner. Location, location, location. I’ll take it no matter what it takes to open it; I’ll do it.”

It took one year and a huge financial commitment from Mr. Stabell and Ms. Rosetta. They had all new electric, plumbing, kitchen equipment, cameras and heating and air units installed in the 1955 Fodero Dining Car.

“Really, the most important thing is that we cleaned it with our own hands,” Ms. Rosetta said proudly.

After all of that hard work, the Milford Diner opened just before Thanksgiving with a limited menu so employees and the new business owners could get used to their new work flow.

“It was a lot of work. We had no idea what was coming to us, but that’s okay. For our staff, we’ve had a few people that have worked here in the past and the people that have been here the majority of the time and they hung up their coats and said, ‘I’m home.’ And I got tears in my eyes. They’ve been waiting. They don’t talk about the food or anything. They say, ‘Thank you for opening it again.’ It’s a very humbling experience for sure,” Ms. Rosetta said.

Aside from renovations, the couple had another dilemma to fix before opening the Milford Diner again. They needed a logo.

The owners reached out to the Milford High School where students in a technology class each designed a logo. A simple design was chosen by the owners, although all of the designs are now on display on the back of the restaurant’s placemats.

“It’s just one way we can reconnect with the community. We hear so many stories about how this was the greatest place in Milford,” Mr. Stabell said. “We know that we have to take care of the people and to take care of the quality of the experience they have; the man-made money will come when we do that.”

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