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Longtime Owner Ellie Lewis Returns To Run Sandy Hook Diner, Plans July 27 Reopening



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It has been four years since Ellie Lewis sold the Sandy Hook Diner after owning it for nearly 25 years, and customers are eager to have her back.

The eatery — among the oldest continually operating in the state until its recent temporary closure — is located at 98 Church Hill Road and has been a staple of Sandy Hook center since 1935, as noted on its front signage.

Lewis was a Sandy Hook resident for almost two decades before moving to Southbury 12 years ago. She began working at the diner back in 1987 and gained a dedicated following over the years, with many customers becoming her good friends.

The diner remained close to her heart even after retiring, as her longtime boyfriend Clifford Rothe remained there as the manager and cook until his passing in January of this year.

In March, the Sandy Hook Diner temporarily shut its doors while the then-owner evaluated its future. It remained closed the last few months before the building’s landlord called Lewis to let her know the business was officially for sale and that she was the first to know.

After just a few days of contemplating the decision, Lewis officially repurchased the Sandy Hook Diner on June 10, and anticipates reopening Monday, July 27. When asked what inspired her to do so, she gave a laugh and said, “There is something to being retired, but on the other hand I really missed everybody. It had been a long time.”

Since making the leap back to working life, Lewis has been busy making updates to the diner. She has not been alone, though, as many people have come out to show their support for her and the beloved eatery.

“This has been a community effort here,” Lewis said. “It’s absolutely unbelievable what everybody’s been doing for me.”

Among the many names of people she lists who have lent a helping hand, she notes that Rothe’s daughter and daughter-in-law have been a great help to her with getting the diner in tip top shape.

“The girls have completely redone the dining room. They stripped all the old wallpaper off. It was totally in need of being refurbished,” Lewis said.

Lewis also expressed a great deal of appreciation to local architect Bob Mitchell, who went as far as to make a surprise sign for Lewis that says, “Ellie’s Back. We will open soon.”

The sandwich board-style sign stands proudly outside its front door, and there are posters in the windows with the same message.

‘Big Shoes To Fill’

Lewis is happy to report that the Sandy Hook Diner’s menu is also having some improvements made to it.

“We used to use different canned vegetables for things, and our lunch menu was totally in need of revamping,” she explained.

The diner will now be using fresh vegetables and offer more healthy options.

Lewis added, “I found a couple of new cooks, and they have big shoes to fill. Cliff had quite the reputation.”

Since June, Lewis has been inundated with positive messages from people expressing their excitement for her return at the Sandy Hook Diner.

“Oh my gosh, every time I turn around people ask, ‘When are you opening?’ It’s so nice, it’s so welcoming,” she said. “I can’t even tell you how wonderful everyone has been to me.”

To accommodate the new six-feet rule for customers at restaurants, there will be modified indoor dining with Plexiglas, a new outdoor dining section, and takeout available.

To the community members who have gathered behind her during these unprecedented times, she said, “My thanks to everyone who has helped me pull this off… it’s amazing, really, how helpful everyone has been.”

The Sandy Hook Diner’s hours of operation will be Monday through Friday from 6 am to 2 pm, Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm, and Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm. For more information call 203-270-1270.

Ellie Lewis is looking forward to the first morning when she can flip the sign from Closed to Open on the door at 98 Church Hill Road. The longtime eatery is again owned by the former Sandy Hook resident, who is planning to reopen on Monday, July 27. —Bee Photos, Hicks
Tables and chairs under a white tent could be seen outside the Sandy Hook Diner, on June 26, as the eatery prepared to reopen after being closed the last few months.
On July 14, a table inside the Sandy Hook Diner’s main dining room was covered with signage yet to be hung and binders to keep track of employee and kitchen equipment temperatures. In the background is a hutch familiar to many who have visited the diner in recent years. Filled with small items, it has been relocated from the southern side of the room to the eastern exterior wall.
A Frontier technician approaches the main entrance of Sandy Hook Diner for a service call ahead of the landmark location’s reopening.
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