Three brothers from Queens have reopened the landmark Jupiter Lighthouse Diner, bringing back memories to long-time north county residents.
“That place is an emotional trigger,” said Jupiter native Skip Gladwin, who remembers hanging out in the diner as a high school student in the late 1950s. “I went there for lunch yesterday. That diner has such a history.”
First opened in the early 1950s, the restaurant on U.S. 1 and Beach Road drew an eclectic crowd before it closed in March 2009.
Brightly dressed bicycle riders stopped on their way along State Road A1A. Families crammed into the booths and waitresses would bring the children crayons to color. Fishermen kibitzed about the day’s catches — and misses. Construction workers sat elbow-to-elbow with office workers at the counter.
“I started coming here 30 years ago. This was the place you met your friends and started your day. I was devastated when it closed,” said Jupiter resident Charlotte Pike, who stopped in Monday morning at the restaurant at U.S. 1 and Beach Road.
Ryan, Rich and Kevin Perez bought the property after it closed with the intention of fixing up the single-story building. The plan was to lease it.
But strangers began to knock on the door and ask when the diner was going to reopen. Realtors wanted to buy the diner.
“We came to understand how much this place meant to the community. We figured, ‘Let’s keep it and do it our way,’ ” said Ryan, a Palm Beach Gardens resident. The brothers, who owned two restaurants in Queens, quietly reopened about three weeks ago.
They spent about $350,000 gutting the inside. Their goal was to make a new place with the original nautical, old-school atmosphere of the old diner.
The original booths were reupholstered in grey with white stripes. A three-foot-high red replica of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is perched on a table. The U-shaped counter is still there, although the new 19-seater has six more gray swivel stools than the original one. Historical black-and-white photos of Jupiter are on the walls. So are posters of The Lucy Show, The Three Stooges and Gone with the Wind.
“That’s why we kept the name. We wanted a retro feel,” Ryan said.
They got it, said Gladwin, who graduated from Palm Beach High School in 1960.
To Gladwin and other north county teenagers, the Lighthouse Diner was the same as The Hut, the hangout for West Palm Beach high school kids on Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach, he said.
“When I was in high school, the Lighthouse Diner was the place to go. Walking in there now is like a time warp,” Gladwin said.