Brian Kieffer knows not to fix something that isn't broken.That's why Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville has the same unique tables and photos of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, and most of the same menu, despite Kieffer having assumed ownership two months ago.
Kieffer, 31, was familiar with the diner from when his brother worked there. The Dwenger graduate has always worked in restaurants and owns three Fort Wayne Bon Bon's Coffee Company sites. So when the diner owners talked to Kieffer about buying the business he decided to do it.
Since then, he has slowly added items with the help of head cook, Nicole Gable, who started working there around the time he took over."What they did before, they were successful," Kieffer said.
He wants to build on the 1950s diner theme while appealing to younger families and work professionals.
"You want dessert after a game?" Kieffer said. "I want to be that place. You have a birthday? I want to be that place you go to."
Gable, who went through Fort Wayne Community Schools' and Ivy Tech Northeast's culinary programs, has added her mark on the menu. She makes the pies and cakes from scratch. One was what Kieffer called her Willy Wonka cake: a white cake with cherries covered in four different colors of icing. "It looked like a watercolor almost," said Gable, who turns 21 next week.
Guests still ask about the breakfast burger – a 5-ounce patty with ham and bacon topped with a fried egg – once offered. The diner doesn't serve breakfast yet. That's something Kieffer hopes to add this summer.
"We're doing the best we can to fit into the community," Kieffer said. So, the staff is really interested in the feedback they get from guests as the diner serves new items. Some aren't as successful, such as the Reuben bites, which Kieffer blames on introducing them on a busy Friday with not time to explain them to diners.
So they continue to try new things while keeping many of the items that guests have come to love, including the fish dinners. Specialty coffee seems a natural future step, given Kieffer's interest in his other businesses. "I want to integrate that, but I don't want to lose the focus."
Kieffer and Gable seem to have a synergy that fosters creativity. While eating a Girl Scout caramel delite cookie made of chocolate and toasted coconut he wondered if Gable could create a cake like that.
"You challenged me," she tells Kieffer.
She met the challenge immediately.
He knows some customers may be skeptical of new ownership. He hopes to draw them in with some of the same fare as before, alongside new offerings. They'll serve a strawberry cheesecake, but have a plain one, too.
"What you've come to like is here," he wants to assure them.
Olde Towne Diner
WHERE: 14515 Leo Road, Leo-Cedarville
HOURS: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday
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