Marlee’s Diner to close

Posted on 20 July 2018 by LeslieM

By Rachel Galvin

After 17 years, Marlee’s Diner & Bakery (located at 699 S. Federal Hwy. in Deerfield Beach) is set to close. The last day will be July 29.

The family-owned restaurant was originally opened by Matthew Mavromatis, who named it after his daughter, in 2001. In 2008, he sold the restaurant, but the family ended up retaking the locale in 2011. His mom, Helen, does the books and dad, Steve, helps on the register and does PR. His sister Emmy Louvaris, who worked as a teacher in Broward County, took a leave of absence six years ago to help out and she has been here ever since.

Louvaris said closing is bittersweet for the family. Although her parents are looking forward to retirement, and she is looking forward to a much-needed break, she understands the hole being closed will leave in the community.

“ ‘Devastated’ is the word I keep hearing from customers,” she said. “I posted it on Facebook and have 1100 views. People are calling each other, calling us. I am keeping the Facebook up through next year because we have a lot of snowbirds who will be coming back. I have gotten e-mails from Canada.”

She said she is going to be doing a documentary with video and pictures of customers through the years, which she will post on YouTube probably.

I am looking forward to being a family and not business partners,” she said.

Emmy hopes to focus more now on her passion — art. She has her paintings displayed all around the restaurant — pastels and chalk drawings mostly.

When the restaurant started closing at 3 p.m., she started doing art shows there and she also created and sold a calendar.

The waitresses are unsure where to go. They are currently putting out resumes, but they know they will never find a job like this.

Waitress Pamela Little said, “I have 32 years of memories, very good ones. I can’t imagine it being sold. I can’t digest it. I wake up in the middle of the night, [hoping to be] waking up out of this nightmare. You don’t find a crew and place to work like this.”

Deborah Carpenter, also a waitress, said, “I have been here around 34 years. I was here when it was Sambos, then Mike’s, then George’s, then Marlee’s. I am sick to my stomach. I could be a world traveler for all the people I have met. How nice the customers have been to me. I have met so many friends.”

She added, “I am scared. I have given my life here. I get up at 3 and am here by 4 in the morning. I have never missed work, even if I was sick.”

She said, “If customers don’t come in, I call them. There is a 91-year-old — her daughter called and said where is my mom going to go now? I have customers who come in who are in their 80s and 90s and I open crackers for them. I used to have a customer outside waiting for me at 4 a.m. He thought it was his job to put all the creamers out. He overslept and apologized for being late. He had a picture of me and him on his wall.”

She added, “[My daughter] used to sleep in the office. Guys used to put money for my daughter in the pay phone. She’d check the phone every day. They would leave a dollar. [She later worked here]. She is a teacher now at Boca Hammock. Everyone knows me and they ask about her”

She continued, “All of us have been here 15-20 years. I’ve been here the longest. It is too bad we couldn’t find someone to take over.”

The diner has been sold to an undisclosed property developer.

This place means a lot to me,” said a tearful Liz Weyhknecht. “All my friends are here. They’re my family. I lost my son to Cancer. He was only 8 years old. This was one of the 1st jobs I had after that. All of these people know him through me. All grieving parents just want someone to remember. This was one of the places I healed. They know when his birthday is and I get extra special hugs that day.”

She added, “Besides being a waitress, I also do baking here. I hope to find somewhere to do that. I am putting feelers out.”

Carol Collins recalled times when she called hospitals or 911 to track down an elderly customer if they didn’t come into the restaurant for a while, saying one customer had put her name down as a contact on the board at the hospital.

Servers don’t do that,” she said. “I have been here 18 years. I have customers that had babies who are now adults. The time the restaurant sold, everyone stayed. The customers stayed here for us.”

Louvaris said that when she knows where the waitresses are going next, she will post their new job location on Facebook so customers will know. She will be staying locally for awhile doing her art and her parents will be traveling to Greece, where they also have a home, and to Colorado, where her brother Matthew lives with his family.

Find Marlee’s on Facebook or visit www.marleesdiner.com.

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