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Sisters overcome obstacles, reopen diner

11/25/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

K's Homestyle Diner, which has been closed since Nov. 5, 2012, due to a fire, reopened a week ago today.

Kim Leiker, who owns the business with her sister, Kari Geerdes, is quick to point out they haven't been "off" for a year; they've been busy getting ready to open the doors again.

"Very stressful," Leiker said of time spent since that night when her daughter was pounding on her front door, telling her the diner was on fire.

"We learned a lot this year about how everything works in rebuilding a place that's been burned down," Leiker said. "Our insurance has been great -- Insurance Planning, they're outstanding."

A fire caused by spontaneous combustion of rags in the kitchen gutted the inside of the diner, located at the site of the former Village Inn Pancake House at 3402 Vine. The restaurant barely had been open a month, opening its doors Oct. 1, 2012.

"We didn't know the extent of the damage at first," Leiker said. "Once we walked through, it was massively heartbreaking. All the work we put in the first time, and a month (later), it's gone. That really got to us."

There was no question, though, whether they were going to reopen the business, Leiker said.

"Right after the fire," Leiker said of when she and her sister decided to give it another try.

"We were both pretty anxious, waiting to get it back open again," Leiker said of that first day last week.

The sisters had no previous restaurant experience when they opened the diner the first time.

"No surprises," for the second opening, Leiker said. "We knew what to expect."

Business the first week has been good, Leiker said. They opened the doors again without doing any advertising. That will come later, once they have the kinks worked out.

"We've had a few glitches and issues and stuff, what you pretty much expect when you're opening," Leiker said. "Nine-tenths of the people are very understanding, knew exactly what we've been through.

"People in the community have been great, very understanding, very sympathetic. Lots of encouragement."

Tiffany Lehman, Ellis, came in to eat one day last week on her lunch break. She said she ate there often before the fire, and wanted to try it again.

"First time around, the staff was really friendly; the food was really great," said Lehman, who tried the chicken-fried steak. "I like the food, so I'm glad to see they were able to open back up."

Not only did their restaurant close due to a fire last year, but the sisters suffered another loss, too.

"First time we were open, we were open only two weeks when our mother passed away," Leiker said. "But she did get to come here the first time."

Leiker said she and her sister are stronger for what has happened in the last year.

"I think anybody would be stronger, going through something like this," she said. "We never experienced anything like this."

The menu has the basics, with comfort food such as meatloaf and burgers. Leiker, who said 90 percent of the food is homemade, plans to add daily and weekly specials.

The diner is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.