Steel Trolley Diner to reopen


LISBON — The Steel Trolley Diner is back in business.

Owners Ryan Hillman and his mother Jacki Hersman announced the diner will reopen at 11 a.m. today, two months after it closed due to health code violations.

“We’re just excited to be back as part of of the Lisbon community,” Hillman said, adding that while upgrading the diner they received offers from people interested in purchasing the 1954 diner, including serious offers from people as close as Salem and faraway as California.

“But ultimately we feel the diner belongs here. I mean it’s been part of the Lisbon community for — it’ll be 40 years next year — and it’s been part of Columbiana County for what — 65 years almost. We love being here, we love the history of the restaurant, the history of the town, and we’re happy to be back,” he said.

Hillman and his mother have operated the diner for the past 26 years, which was moved from Salem to Lisbon in 1979 by Shirley Davis, who ran it until she sold it to them.

When forced to close in January, Hillman vowed to reopen as quickly as possible. He originally thought they would resume serving meals around the clock by the end of February but they decided to take more time to give the diner a “thoughtful facelift.”

“We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so we took the opportunity to do something we normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do or the time to do. It gave us the opportunity for a refresh,” he said.

In addition to addressing the violations, the diner booths received new upholstery plus a fresh coat of paint, upgraded lighting and new flooring in the food prep areas. The original terrazzo-style vinyl flooring remains.

“We wouldn’t touch that,” Hersman said.

She described most of the upgrades as “things the general public perhaps won’t see, such as refrigeration, lighting. Those are the things that are new, things that will make the diner more efficient.”

They said the health department worked with them to address the violations, and a new license was issued on Friday. Hillman and Hersman said it took so long to address the violations because they wanted to do so without changing the historic character of the diner.

“I do think through this process the health department has come to value and appreciate the historic nature of this restaurant. There are less than 1,000 original diners left in the United States (out of 6,000 at one time) and I feel fortunate that we’re able to … have this one here,” Hillman said,

Hillman and Hersman wanted to give special thanks to Hersman’s sister, Kathy Feezle, and her husband Doug, who took charge of renovations. A party was held Saturday night at the diner for those who helped and for staff, all of whom are being rehired. Hillman said he will begin hiring additional workers for the summer, which is usually their busiest period.

They are also grateful for hundreds of people who have expressed support and their hope the diner would reopen. People have been stopping by, thinking the diner has reopened, especially after Hersman turned on the iconic 1950s-style neon lights for the party.

“More than one person has used the word icon to describe the diner and we’re appreciative when people think of us like that,” Hillman said.