West Chester's historic stainless steel diner pushes through pandemic

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- 6abc has partnered with Philabundance and the Garces Foundation to feed our food workers, who are facing tough times because of the pandemic.

In West Chester, Chester County, the staff at D-K Diner know all too well about the struggles brought on by COVID-19.

"Originally, it was the only game in town. The trolley ran right here, and this was the place to hit before you headed uptown," said Vince Mackay, the owner of D-K Diner, a stainless steel diner that's been on Gay Street since 1952.

Inside, everybody knows everybody.

"Yeah, they're like family," said Jill Mattia, who has been working here on and off since high school. She's the treasurer too. It's how she stayed working through two shutdowns.

"Bills still needed to be paid despite no money coming in," she said.

Pre-pandemic, there were 25 people on staff. Now there are 12 and only two servers on weekdays, like Gretchen Cortigene. Twice, when indoor dining has gone away, she's gone on unemployment.

"(Unemployment) pay you $2.83 an hour for your 40 hours, so you're not compensated for the tips you don't make when you're not working," said Cortigene.

That's been especially hard with a daughter in college. She says family and the diner's regulars are helping her through.

"I can't say it's been really awful. It is difficult. We do not have as many customers as we did before," she said.

With indoor dining at least partially open, the diner has had a help wanted sign out for a couple of weeks now, but the owner says not that many people are applying.

"I think some people are scared to work and being in the public," said Mackay.

He and his staff hope more people will feel comfortable coming back soon. They say it's the only way West Chester will keep its stainless steel diner.
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