How the Owner of a 24/7 Diner Spends Her Sundays
Three years ago, Irene Siderakis, a stay-at-home mom, suddenly inherited Kellogg’s Diner, a 24-hour restaurant for eggs, burgers, nachos, Greek fare and more in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Chris Siderakis, her husband and the former owner of the restaurant, had passed away suddenly at the age of 49. “I didn’t know how to run a restaurant or if I could,” she said. “I had to make a choice: sell the restaurant or learn the trade on my own and show my boys that we can do it and persevere. She opted for the latter.
Ms Siderakis was just beginning to catch up on the news when she was struck by the double pandemic stroke of herself falling ill with Covid and having to close the almost 100-year-old restaurant during the closure. She was afraid of losing the business for good. “But the people really helped,” she said. Regulars have launched a GoFundMe for her and Kellogg’s. The effort helped the restaurant reopen for take-out in May 2020 and return to 24-hour service earlier this year. “It was a place that everyone wanted to save,” she said.
Mrs. Siderakis, 48, lives in Whitestone, Queens, with her four sons: Themi, 18; Billy, 16; Mario, 15, and Demetri, 12, and their dog Agapi
MORNING LOVE I wake up at 7 a.m. making a Greek smoothie which is Greek iced coffee with Splenda and Greek milk. The children are sleeping. I have a Yorkie-poo that I got on Thanksgiving after my husband died. We call him Agapi, the Greek word for love, that’s what he called me. I wanted to hear it. Now I hear everyone say it. I prepare his meals for the day. I fix the sofa, this is where I sleep so my kids can have their own bedroom. My oldest sleeps in the basement. We have grown too big for the house.
DINNER I’m there at 11 a.m. We are a covered place. Because we are in a corner, there was nowhere to put tables outside. The train passes under us, and the metro stairs are right here. There were months where I didn’t think we would get there, but people are here again. Now I can finally start paying my bills.
MORNING ROUNDS Sunday is a day the boss has to show up. It’s very busy, full of families and big tables and couples. I put my bag behind the cash register, say hello to the staff upstairs and in the kitchen. I check the toilets, walk around the restaurant, and greet customers, many of whom know me because they are regulars. When Chris died, I put myself in his shoes and learned how the dollar was made. I developed a new respect for what he did. It also makes me feel closer to him.
CABINS The rotation occurs every 45 minutes to an hour. We have about 25 kiosks; the rest are tables. Everyone wants a booth and a window. It’s Williamsburg. They love to see Brooklyn’s old buildings and the busy intersection.
RATE People like hangovers, greasy spoon food. Everyone drinks coffee or ice cream milkshakes. We sell a lot of pancakes, Egg Benedict, waffles, and believe it or not, people order chicken wings, fried chicken and waffles, and burgers at 11am.
THE DELIVERY DANCE The phones are still ringing and the faxes are still coming. Deliveries and pickups are a huge part of the business. Grubhub, Seamless and Delivery.com arrive by fax. Uber and DoorDash have their own tablets, and those still ring the bell. I check everything to make sure the orders are correct and then they need to be confirmed. These confirmation numbers are written on a notepad. If something is wrong I have to call the catering companies, they call the customer, it’s an endless barrage of calls. Then we pack everything and bring them to the door.
DUTY ENTRY DOOR I like to connect and welcome customers. We were so divided and far apart from each other. I want to hug everyone. We all say, “Hi, how are you? I tell them how we’re doing, they tell me how they’re doing, whether they’re engaged or married. My mouth doesn’t stop.
OFFICE ESCAPE If it’s not crowded, I go up to the office at 3 o’clock and have lunch for 30 minutes. I’m going to order a BLT or egg white omelet with vegetables, or a plain burger. And another iced coffee. My brain is strained and my eyes are tired. My lower back hurts. The desk is small, but there is a desk, chair, and recliner, which I slept in. I relax and call my boys to see if they are okay, what have they eaten, do they have any friends, am I entering a house that has four children or 10.
GROCERY TRANSPORT If the staff have everything under control, I go to Key Food in the Whitestone Mall and shop for the week. We go through a lot of milk, bread, eggs, cold cuts, toilet paper and cereals. I leave with five to eight bags.
RESIDENCE The kids help bring everything inside. The sports channel is always on. I take the dog or she keeps jumping. She weighs only five pounds and looks like a rabbit. There is a lot of noise. I always ask, ‘Why are your clothes on the floor? Why can’t you pick up this or that? They only help me when I ask them. I’m working on it. It was very hard. It’s the life of a single woman with children. If my kids don’t have any friends, I put on my loungewear, which is pajamas or yoga pants and a t-shirt.
FILL MORE BELLY I do the laundry and cook dinner. Sometimes I will have prepared something before I go or I will make chicken and potatoes, spaghetti and bolognese, or pork chops and salad. If I’m really tired, I bring food from the restaurant: chicken wings, Philly cheese steak, nachos; they all want different things. Since Chris died, we rarely sit down as a family, which is sad. My whole life is different now. Sometimes they will have eaten during the day and want nothing. If that happens I get a bowl of cherries and we all watch a game on TV which is really cool because I love being with them.
VENTILATION I am exhausted from the day. Children are usually in their bedrooms playing video games. This is the time when I make calls to my sister or to friends. I’ll check my email or log into Facebook. I’ll watch some news. The dog curls up next to me and I usually fall asleep around 11:30 am.
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