The Hi-Lo Diner has lived in more U.S. cities than most of its patrons. Made in 1957 in a New Jersey warehouse owned by an Italian immigrant, this classic diner—then called the Venus Diner—lived for half a century outside Pittsburgh before going dark in 2009. Vacant but full of potential, the diner lay fallow for years.
Now, the old Venus Diner has reopened in Minneapolis, more than 800 miles away. Along with its new home, it’s gotten a facelift, a new name (the Hi-Lo Diner, shorthand for two nearby neighborhoods), and a bit of TLC from a history buff who’s devoted his life to rehabilitating old greasy spoons.
Over the past three decades, Steve Harwin, who owns Diversified Diners in Akron, Ohio, has refurbished and tricked out old diners and turned them over to new owners who want to give them new lives. Harwin, who hates corporations and chain restaurants, has devoted himself to the retro local restaurant instead; he’s completely restored around 20 diners, devoting between seven months to two years per project.