WEST FARGO-Waitress Teresa Pope swung her arms wide open and greeted another customer walking into Deaner's Diner in West Fargo, formerly known as TNT's Diner with a big hug and gush of "I've missed you!" The customer was one of many that had already stopped by the diner at 405 Main Ave. W. on its first day of business Monday, June 20, under the new ownership of Dean and Della Johnson.
The Fergus Falls, Minn., area natives and industry veterans who founded the long-closed Treetop Lounge in Moorhead, bought the diner from owner Tammy Hagensen last week.
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Hagensen opened the diner with husband, Tim, in 2007 but closed it in April after his death, with hopes that a new owner could continue the business.
After working in the corporate restaurant industry and successfully opening a chain of delis in Las Vegas, the Johnsons moved back to this area and closed on the sale of TNT's Diner on June 13.
By Monday morning, they were open for business with most of the roughly 25 TNT's Diner staff members returning to work. Before opening, Dean Johnson said nearly everything would stay the same, from the menu and decor to staff.
But the diner's name was changed out of respect for Hagensen, who sold the restaurant because she said she couldn't bear to work there in the wake of her husband's death.
The name Deaner's Diner was chosen in a vote by the Johnsons' children. It refers to Dean's name and is also a reference to James Dean. Fans of the icon mid-century actor are often referred to as Deaners, Johnson said. With its homestyle menu and 1950s-style rock decor throughout the diner, the name fits well.
Deaner's Diner will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, although Johnson said he is hoping to start extending the hours starting this fall.
Johnson said the diner may eventually be open nights and weekends.