Red’s Diner reopens after completing renovation

LEWISTOWN – Red’s Diner has been a fixture in Mifflin County for nearly 70 years, but you’d never know that just by looking at the dining room.

Bright white walls adorned in Coca-Cola memorabilia, red booths, new light fixtures and special window treatments brought Kim and Ron Barner’s vision to life.

“We wanted it brighter and more cheerful – some place you can bring the family,” Kim said.

They’ve achieved that, and then some; in fact, the new lights were so bright, they had to remove some of the bulbs just to keep from getting headaches themselves.

Gone are the curtains that used to line the windows as well, exchanged for mirrored glass that allows patrons to see out during the day, but passers-by can’t see inside the dining room. At night, the effect is reversed.

“It was a dungeon,” Ron said with a smile.

They collected the Coca-Cola decor over the past 10 years, attending auctions as far away as North Carolina.

“There’s a big auction in Mabin every year,” Kim said. The annual event is held over three days each August. The Barners have attended twice, returning to Pennsylvania with truckloads of collectibles bearing the fizzy beverage’s logo.

Kim has amassed such a collection over the years, she plans to rotate pieces on display at the diner.

Though the theme is new to Red’s, the diner itself was probably around when many of the vintage pieces were first produced. The Glendye family – Red Glendye, patriarch – was operating the diner in 1947 just down the road from its current location. The business moved to its new home in 1954, where it’s been ever since. At some point, the Conrad family purchased Red’s from the Glendyes, and the Barners bought the restaurant from Joan and Bob Conrad in April 2005.

But it was not without some prodding from a friend.

“Richie Royer kept bugging (Ron) about it,” Kim said. “He kept saying, ‘You know, Red’s is for sale.'”

Kim said Royer knew Ron wanted to own a restaurant, and eventually Ron gave in, put an end to his career as a truck driver and committed himself to the food industry.

The diner closed for several months for cleaning and updating, reopening on July 13, 2005.

“It was Friday the 13th,” Ron said, adding that he and Kim aren’t superstitious.

Whether it’s been good luck, bad luck or had nothing to do with luck at all, Red’s remains, as do its customers.

Chester Phillips and Myrna Lewis are regulars at the diner, and they are both enjoying the dining room’s new atmosphere.

“It’s very nice. It’s kind of refreshing – nice, light and cheerful,” Lewis said.

But it really comes down to the food for both of them.

“The food is very good. We come down here every day,” Phillips remarked.

The Barners’ plan to improve their customers’ dining experience wasn’t limited to creating a bright space. They’ve also implemented a new point of sale system for the diner, which allows employees to send orders to the kitchen quickly and easily.

Bobby Rupert, a representative from J.D. Webb who helped install the system, said the Amber POS software interlinks iPads around the diner for ease of use. He explained some of the software’s features, which include income analysis per table and remote access capability.

The new system will allow the Barners to keep in touch with their employees and the business even when they can’t be at the diner physically, via their own iPads or an app on their cell phones.

“We can keep track of inventory on there and employees’ hours,” Ron said. He said the software will help him keep track of stock so he knows how quickly items are used and when to order more.

While current upgrades were limited to the dining room and computer system, the Barners plan to make similar changes to the seating area in the front of the diner and the public restrooms at the end of this year and into 2015. They plan to close the diner from Christmas to New Year’s to accomplish this, just as they did to undertake the recently completed project.

Red’s Diner is located at 878 U.S. 22 in Lewistown. The diner is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 7 a.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Sunday, providing 24-hour service through the weekend.