Tag Archives: Laurel Lakes

Surprise Closing: Silver Diner

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Photo: Chris B. Daniel

Yesterday evening, I got a text from Rodney Pressley—one of my oldest friends from Laurel. He’d just gotten a most unexpected email from Silver Diner. It wasn’t a promotional coupon, or an announcement about an upcoming event:

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Courtesy of Rodney Pressley

They weren’t just announcing that the popular restaurant at 14550 Washington Boulevard was closing—they had already closed, effective immediately.

Rodney sent me the above screenshot, which I posted on the Lost Laurel Facebook page essentially as breaking news, because this information seemed to have come out of nowhere.

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It quickly became one of Lost Laurel’s most engaging posts—ever—with over 300 shares and over 44,000 people reached. (The page has even had more than 150 new likes in the past 24 hours). Clearly, the unexpected departure of the Silver Diner caught all of us off guard, even those who weren’t regular patrons.

A number of people commented that they’d actually just eaten at the restaurant the day before, and there had been absolutely no clue that they had planned to close. Silver Diner’s website (which had already erased the Laurel location from its website at the time of the email) eventually updated its FAQ page with a special notice about the Laurel restaurant’s closing. They also included a detailed PDF.

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In short, it seems that the restaurant had a 25-year lease on the property, which had just ended. The landowner(s) wanted considerably more money to renew the lease than Silver Diner was willing to pay.

One would think that there would have been some sort of communication with the employees and the community at large before the decision to close was made, though. Had there been, I’m guessing there would have been strong support for Silver Diner to remain open. After all, the restaurant seemed to have a full parking lot at all hours of the day and night—they weren’t hurting for business.

And from a historical perspective, (albeit recent history) this is actually a pretty big deal. The Silver Diner opened in late 1990, and was only the second restaurant in the chain’s history (behind Rockville). It even had an early review in the Washington Post.

Twenty-five years. Think about that for a second. In an age when we’ve sadly come to expect businesses to change every couple of years, this one ended up staying for a quarter of a century. While it honestly didn’t seem like it, the novelty of this polished chrome and neon facsimile of a classic diner had steadily become a classic itself. At the very least, it had become a fixture in the shadow of Laurel Lakes.

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Photos: Bonnie Oskvarek

With the news of its closing, rumors and misinformation quickly began flying, as is often the case with social media. Some folks were confusing the Silver Diner with its elder counterpart—the legendary Tastee Diner at 118 Washington Boulevard—which is still very much open for business, and now in its 65th year. Others mistakenly thought the entire Silver Diner chain was going out of business, blaming its revamped menu, among other things.

Others were speculating that the restaurant had closed due to a fire—a fate all-too familiar for other longtime Laurel restaurants. (See also, “Bay ‘n Surf,” “Delaney’s Irish Pub,” and “Tag’s”…)

In fact, there had actually been a minor fire at the Silver Diner on closing day—but it had nothing to do with the chain’s decision to close the Laurel restaurant.

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Courtesy of Megan Wheatley Shurman

So, Laurel’s Silver Diner has closed its doors. There was no forewarning, and no chance for customers to stop in one last time to reminisce. And 25 years’ worth of memories is significant. I’ve heard from several people who had gone to the restaurant on their first dates; and one Lost Laurel reader commented that she’d met her future husband there—he’d been her waiter.

That being said, I suppose there’s never been a more perfect time to share these items from my collection. Frankly, I didn’t really expect to share them; I assumed, like everyone else, that the Silver Diner wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. These flyers, menus, and coffee cup date between 1990–92—the restaurant’s earliest days:

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This one’s a two-fer: local oldies radio station XTRA104 didn’t last very long into the 1990s.

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Note the two locations: it was just Rockville and Laurel at the time.

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For what it’s worth, Silver Diner’s website mentions that they are “looking at multiple opportunities in the Laurel and Columbia areas and (they) hope to return to the Laurel area soon.”

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Evans

What time is it? It’s Evans time! Check out this sweet Seiko watch display ad from a 1986 Laurel Leader supplement.

Evans Distributors & Jewelers was the largest and most visible of the department stores in the northern section of Laurel Lakes Center, situated on the corner of Baltimore Ave. and Mulberry Street. Only Bradlees (the original centerpiece of Laurel Lakes) was bigger and more versatile—a precursor to today’s Target. Evans, on the other hand, was a slightly different animal; a catalog showroom in the same mold as Best and W. Bell & Co.

The basic concept behind such catalog showrooms was to feature the majority of products (primarily housewares and electronics) as out-of-the-box display models. Customers could browse aisles of these display models; but rather than place a product in your cart and proceed to the checkout line, you’d have to submit an order at the counter. If the product was in stock, it would be retrieved and delivered to a customer service area for subsequent purchase. Sound like a pain? It usually was. And that’s only the half of it—because more often than not, they didn’t have your item in stock. “Rain checks” were quite popular amongst shoppers at Evans, Best, and W. Bell & Co.

Archaic shopping concept aside, Evans was a fairly popular store in its time. And thankfully, not everything in their inventory was catalog-based. I still have a camera bag and tripod that I purchased in the early 90s, which I bought off the shelf. Others have mentioned still having items such as travel alarm clocks from the same era. And like Best and W. Bell & Co., Evans published an annual catalog that was always a treat to peruse, especially at Christmas time.

But like its competitors, the 1990s weren’t kind. And not just to Evans—to the entire quadrant of Laurel Lakes Center that abutted it, including T.J. Maxx, Kids ‘R’ Us, the Laurel Lakes Cinema 12, and about a dozen smaller stores in between. After multiple changes of ownership, miscommunication with tenants, and other snafus, this entire section of the shopping center was summarily bulldozed by 2002—to make way for the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center that currently occupies the space.

In the end, Evans—a company that prided itself on affordable fine jewelry and timepieces (as evidenced by the aforementioned sweet watch display ad above) had been operating on borrowed time, itself.

This 2000 Laurel Leader article reveals exactly how little the tenants of Laurel Lakes actually knew about its future.

 

Photo: historicaerials.com

 

 

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Laurel Lakes, 1986

This is a “Laurel Lakes CentrePiece” promotional newspaper—a supplement to the Laurel Leader—from August 1986.

It contains several pages of reviews and ads for the likes of Shoney’s and Evans, as well as some of the smaller merchants in the nearly-new Laurel Lakes Centre. Best of all, it includes a complete directory listing and map of everything that was there in 1986. So if you’re like me, and couldn’t quite remember names like Maxime’s Books and China D’Lite, this infographic is a veritable time machine.

 

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