Historic Marlinton diner re-opens

Marlinton, W.Va. – A landmark Marlinton diner re-opened Friday morning – after being closed for nearly two years. The Diner, formerly French’s Diner, is now open for business.
New proprietor Tanya Armstrong took over the business from her parents, Larry and Arlene Armstrong.

A bad economy hit the restaurant hard, starting in 2008, and the little diner got behind in its rent payment. The landowners told the Armstrongs the restaurant had to go. Tanya says a new deal allowed the diner to re-open.

“The people who had sent the letter for it to close down, with the lot, they worked out a deal with us and stuff and so, we all just decided to open it back up,” she said.

Mother Arlene says Tanya grew up in the little diner.

“It’s coming home,” she said. “Because we were in here forever. She grew up in here. So, it’s coming home. Maybe her little girl can grow up in here. Everybody’s excited. We’ve had a lot of people coming and ‘when are you opening’ and ‘when are you opening?’ So, I think they’re probably looking forward to it.”

The night before, Tanya said there would be no grand opening.

“Just flipping the sign in the door,” she said. “We’re not planning anything really special for it. We’re going to open up at nine in the morning and we’re just going to get it rolling from there. I’m glad, It’s like being back home. it’s been like, out of town and when it opens up it like coming back home. It feels really good.”

Tanya tells why she thinks the diner is special.

“It’s a special place for a town,” she said. “It’s like a part of the town and like an historical landmark. The got a place that they can go into that has been around for a long amount of time and there’s not many places that you can do that with. Like you’re walking into your kitchen at home and friendly faces and a good atmosphere and stuff like that.”

The new proprietor says there have been some changes.

“It’s been completely, redone,” she said. “It’s got wood halfway up the walls and then it’s a real pretty blue from the middle of the wall up with white trim on it. It’s got a new linoleum floor in it through the whole thing and it’s completely different than what it used to look like. The outside’s the same but the inside’s different.”

Arlene says the diner will still offer the same favorites.

“I’m going to tell you what,”she said. “Everybody always comes and they want them brown beans and cornbread and onions, you know. That’s definitely going to be there. The special tomorrow’s going to be meatloaf. We’ll have our good old meatloaf and our sausage gravy and biscuits. Everybody loves them. And roast beef and mashed potoatos and gravy. So, all that’s going to be right here.”

French Johnson and his partner, Mr. Gilmore, opened the diner in 1950. Johnson’s wife Amy remarried after French died and operated the diner for several years with her husband, Guy VanReenen.

VanReenen later sold the diner to Janice McLaughlin, who sold it to the Armstrongs in July, 1999.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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