Waverly’s longtime restaurant, East Bremer Diner, will permanently close its doors after May 29. Owner Matt Lamos announced the decision on Facebook on April 14.
“I had conversations with my loved ones for years about when it would be time for me to leave the Diner,” Lamos wrote. “I decided, with the help of my family and loved ones, that this day would be May 29. I thought it was appropriate that graduation day (for Waverly-Shell Rock High School and Wartburg College) marks the last time I open the doors as an owner.
It’s a fitting final date, as the business has been the regular site of graduation dinners, as well as celebrations for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions, since its opening.
The East Bremer Diner was founded in 2001 by Don and Sue Landau, who have a long history of establishing restaurants in the Cedar Valley. Lamos first worked at the Diner as a waiter when he was a student at Wartburg College in the early 2000s.
After earning a communications degree from Wartburg in 2006, Lamos, from Denver, Iowa, moved to Las Vegas for five years. He returned to Iowa to work for a marketing company, then returned to Diner as general manager for over three years.
In 2015, he bought the business from the Landaus, years after showing interest in it.
“I wanted it to stay in the community,” Lamos told Waverly Newspapers last Tuesday. “There wasn’t much else like it, and I think it filled a void.”
The Diner has had many loyal customers over the years, and not just for the special occasions many people know it for.
Ann Dirksen, from Waverly, has enjoyed dining at the restaurant since it opened, almost every day when she worked downtown, she said. Her favorite dish is the marinated grilled chicken salad, which she says she will “incredibly” miss when it is no longer available. She will also miss the cheese balls and melty galettes. But there was more to his loyalty to the restaurant than good food.
“I especially liked the staff. They remembered me, my orders, made me feel very special,” she said. “They called me Lady Ann. I felt so honoured.
Additionally, two of Dirksen’s children have worked there over the years: his daughter, Lucy, as a waitress, and his son, Andrew, as a cook.
“They hired my son and made him an amazing worker. He said he loved his colleagues more than anything,” Dirksen said. “Matt really cared. He’s someone I’m forever grateful to for hiring two of my kids and caring about their lives and their successes. He wanted them to have skills to match. departure. It gave them both a great start in management. Andrew said he loved the memories of working there.
Gloria Dreier and her husband, Charlie, also from Waverly, have been associated with the East Bremer Diner since its inception. They cleaned the building after its original renovation and then Gloria then hosted the restaurant for five years. She said she and her husband have eaten there “most Friday nights since they opened.” His favorite dishes are chicken, breaded fish, chicken pot pie and calamari.
“Oh, the raspberry cream pie was delicious!” she added.
Terri Meister, owner of The Mixing Bowl, was known locally for making pies for the East Bremer Diner.
“Not many places have their menu,” Dreier said. Plus, “they have the best staff. Don and Sue were great to work with, and they sold Matt well.
Lamos identifies signature Diner dishes like homemade salad dressings, homemade pizza and Wagyu beef from Hansen’s Dairy in Hudson. “We have great local partnerships,” Lamos said. “It makes it hard to leave.”
As of May 3, the fate of the building was uncertain, but Lamos was optimistic something would work out for Waverly. He said there had been a lot of interest and the possibilities for the property were promising.
“I’m so excited! I know the time was right,” he said, not just for himself, but for the community.
Lamos noted that he has owned or managed the East Bremer Diner for ten years now, and the last five have been particularly difficult, between the Bremer Avenue reconstruction project and then COVID-19.
But things “are in good shape now” – for the company, the city and the community – making it a good time to move on, he said.
After the last day of May 29, Lamos plans to take June and July and focus on being a father and probably working on his house. He has two girls and a boy, all under the age of 6.
“Two months, though – I’ll do something by August,” he said, though he doesn’t know what it will be yet. But he doesn’t worry about it. “I have enough experience, I know it will be fine.”
He said his priority right now is making sure his staff all have something to transition to, and he appreciates the strides people have made to help them. “It’s been a humbling three weeks (since the ad came out), with all the support we’ve had.”
Once he closes the doors, Lamos isn’t necessarily out of the restaurant business for good. “I could very well come back and run one in twelve years, when my kids are older,” he said, noting that he enjoys the challenges of the restaurant industry. “If my kids want to own and run a restaurant one day, we’ll come back to it.”
Although the time may have come, the decision to close the restaurant was not easy. “It’s very bittersweet,” Lamos said. “It’s been such a fun ride.”