Hurricane Matthew: Daytona Beach 8 months later

Starlite Diner comes back bigger, better than before

By Loren Korn - Reporter, Evan Abramson - Digital Intern

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - You'd never know that Hurricane Matthew knocked the Starlite Diner down to its bare bones, leaving many to think it would be closed for good. But with determination from the owners and customers, Starlite Diner is back and better than ever.

"The first thing I thought of, was 'Ok, I have to find another job,'” Mark Robey, a kitchen manager at the diner, said.

That was because Hurricane Matthew demolished the 1950s-themed diner, leaving nothing behind but a bare structure of plywood and windows.

“The whole front of the diner was spread out down A1A,” Robey said. “There were still chunks of metal lying in the middle of the road.”

Robey said the diner's location made it an easy target for the Category 3 storm to knock down.

“The way the hurricane spun, it turned this street right out here into a wind tunnel and that's what really caused the damage,” Robey said.

But Robey said closing the diner permanently was never an option for the owners.

“I think it was always, ‘Let's just see how fast we can get it back together,’” Robey said.

So for 2 1/2 months, they worked.

"Once we got started, we were full-tilt getting this place reopened,” Robey said. “All new walls, all new ceiling -- basically everything is new in here.”

But they stuck with the same 1950s theme, keeping a familiar feel, down to the pictures on the wall and the menus tucked in their holder.

“The diner is basically the same as it was. We wanted to keep it the way that it was. It's a traditional place. People come here because they like the place.”

On Monday, prior to Bike Week, the Starlite Diner reopened for the first time since the hurricane.
“Crazy, because, you're used to coming to work, to a place where everything is stocked, everything is ready to go,” Robey said. “You walk into a totally empty kitchen. And you walk in the morning and the orders are pouring in, you got boxes sitting on the floor.”

It was an adrenaline rush for the staff and exciting for the customers.

"We love this place,” Customer Phil Reilly said.

Phil Reilly and his wife say the diner is always on their list when they come into town.

"Been here six or seven times in the last few years,” Reilly said.

They’re happy to see the diner is back open for business, with the great-tasting and reasonably-sized portions of food and good prices.

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