With 'things behind the scenes' in rear-view mirror, Pink Cadillac hits the road

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Ryan Bernard looks at the symbol of his closing diner, the Pink Cadillack atop the doorway inside. Bernard said the Caddy was staying right where it is. 'It's part of the building,' he said. (Rochester Voice photo)

ROCHESTER - With vintage checkerboard floor and stool seating, old-time countertop pie-holders and waitresses who moved about so fluidly they seemed on rollerskates, walking into the Pink Cadillac Diner was like walking back onto the set of "Happy Days" or American Graffiti, like walking back into history.

Well, for the patrons who loved walking under the famed Pink Caddy into the welcoming restaurant and the Bernard family who loved serving them, as of Tuesday, it was history.

The venerable and much-loved diner closed for good on Monday afternoon without warning save for a short 200-word note on their Facebook page.

On Tuesday as co-owner Ryan Bernard took a break outside from dismantling restaurant equipment, stunned customers unaware of the closure were still walking up to the door and scratching their head at the "Closed" sign.

Part of a Facebook post from Sara Burridge: "Some wonderful memories with my daughter. So sad to see it go. All The staff were always so nice and have always made us feel welcome as family as soon as we walk through the door.'

They left dazed and confused, in dumb disbelief.

Bernard, who had run the restaurant with his dad, Lenny, since it opened in 2001, didn't want to talk a lot about the reasons for the closure.

"Different things behind the scenes," he said. "It's time to move on a bit."

And while he said one of the reasons was the scarcity of good help, he waxed prolifically on those that had worked at the diner over the years.

"I had some of the best people working here," he said. "I had one girl who started here when she was 14; now she's in her mid-20s."

And working at Pink Cadillac was very much a family affair for the Bernards, including Ryan Bernard's 84-year-old grandmother, Marge, who worked the door every weekend.

Bernard said he won't be selling the business to anyone, adding he wants to keep the Pink Cadillac brand pure and believes he'll be back in the food business sometime soon somewhere.

"I don't know if it will be a food truck or if I may open up again somewhere, but this is what I want to do," he said. "But it won't be in this location at this time."

Bernard said the loyal clientele the diner built up over the years was a result of his and his family's philosophy of hosting a food business.

"Treat everyone like family, make everyone be comfortable, and make sure they enjoy what they're doing," he said. "They were here to enjoy eating with their family, sit down, eat and have fun. That's what it's all about."

An outpouring of love and loss, sadness and disbelief spawned quickly on social media after Monday's announcement.

On the restaurant's Facebook Page, 521 shares and 244 comments were already posted as of this morning.

One commenter wrote, "So sad to see that whole era disappear. The infamous "PINK" cady was associated with Cardinal's and The Remember When Lounge. Then it was over to make the Pink Cadillac Diner. We will miss all of you."

Another wrote, "What is going on Rochester? First Gary's now The Pink Caddy! I'm heart broken. Best wishes to you all!! You had a great run and will forever be missed!"

A third post read, "This is sad... my mother, wife and mother in law were trying to make this a mother's day tradition of breakfast the weekend after mother's day. great food, great service. I am very devastated. hope you all the best in the future my wife and I had our wedding day breakfast there 2 years ago and our anniversary last year. planned on that keeping as a tradition too."

Bernard, who has two young children, said for now, he'll be working the next couple of weeks dismantling kitchen equipment and other restaurant stock and decompressing with his kids.

Asked if the recent closures of Gary's Sports Pub, Mel Flanagan's Irish Pub and his diner were pure coincidence or part of a troubling trend, he hinted the latter.

"There a lot of things going on in Rochester right now," he said. "The city feels like pushing on building owners and property owners in the city to make sure their buildings are up to code. Their way of pushing is to upgrade and make buildings nicer or to have them sell and get out and have someone come in the place that will make their buildings to code and make sure their buildings look good. I can't fault Rochester for doing that"

While he declined to comment further, Bernard did guarantee one thing. He'll be back.

"I'll be doing something, I will get back in the food industry," he said.

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