Monica's diner to move in with Wings 'N' Pies
New London — After announcing on Monday that it would be closing after 15 years in business, Monica's State Street Diner reached an agreement on Wednesday to share space across the street with Wings 'N' Pies.
"Now you'll be able to get the best of both worlds: breakfast, lunch and dinner," owner Monica Rossi said Wednesday afternoon. She gave the assurance, "I will be there and the place will run as Monica's did" but noted she is not taking away from anything Wings 'N' Pies is doing.
The offer came so Wings 'N' Pies could prosper and Monica's wouldn't go out of business, Rossi added. So on Jan. 1, it will be "breakfast as usual."
She announced on the diner's Facebook page early Monday morning that Monica's State Street Diner would be closing for good on Friday and invited people to come in on the last day so the staff could say goodbye and thank customers for their support.
In a conversation with The Day on Wednesday morning, she said the closing was "inevitable" because costs for food, electricity and other expenses were going up.
"The people aren't coming in like they used to, and the ratio isn't working out anymore," Rossi said.
Building owner Bill Cornish said Rossi was behind on rent and that following the diner's departure, he will be looking to rent 138 State St. as a restaurant.
Rossi said her monthly rent is $2,100, up from $1,200 when she started the business on Dec. 17, 2002.
Wings 'N' Pies owner Salim Gusainov referred questions on the new partnership to his friend and cousin Rassul Azizov, who works part-time for the restaurant and approached Gusainov with the idea of the collaboration.
Azizov said when he heard Monica's was closing, he felt "so upset and mad, because this place was working for a long time, and the local community knows her very well."
The shared space will allow Monica's to keep its seven employees, some of whom came from the long-closed Royal Diner on Broad Street. Wings 'N' Pies and Monica's are otherwise still working out many of the details of this new venture.
"We have [a] pretty big place, so why not?" Azizov said.
Earlier in the day, before Rossi could confirm the plan, her patrons wistfully reminisced and spoke of their affection for the diner, particularly its owner.
Sandra Oney, who has been coming to the diner since before Rossi was the owner, described Monica's as "a huggy place. You know the staff well enough to give them a good morning hug when you come in, and that's because of Monica."
She recalls that when Rossi was trying to become pregnant — her son is now 9 — all her customers were pulling for her.
Oney eats at the diner three or four times a week and each time runs into about that number of customers she knows.
Bob and Jane McPhail come from their home in Norwich about once a week to eat at Monica's. They discovered the diner about five years ago and have been returning for the good food and friendly atmosphere.
Talking to longtime customers makes it difficult to believe a sign on the wall: "Sorry! I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn't too promising either."
This year, Connecticut Magazine named Monica's one of the best diners in the state.
The community has rallied behind Monica's in the past: The diner closed for seven months following extensive damage from a fire in August 2013.
But Rossi was back and has continued serving up orders cooked, as she says, "with love."
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