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Penny's Diner Closes, Seeks New Location

Owner Penny Folino said she was forced out of her lease after a rise in rent and is now looking to open a restaurant in Upper St. Clair or Bethel Park.

The smell of Famous Stuffed Croissant French Toast isn't wafting through Lakeside Plaza in  the way it normally does.

Owner Penny Folino posted a sign on the door of the restaurant explaining the diner was forced out of its lease due to an unaffordable rise in rent.

It closes after two years of operation in the McMurray location.

Folino wrote that the business is looking for a new space effective immediately. 

In an exclusive interview with Patch on Saturday, she explained what happened in recent years with her diners, including the hotspot location in South Side.

“A couple of years ago I was going through a divorce, which is now finalized,” she said. “My ex-husband was running everything. Once I was granted to go back in, I acquired all of the debt. The sales at my South Side location had dropped 75 percent.”

She said it forced her to go into a reorganization. Hence, the opening of Penny’s.

Recently, Walnut Capital raised her rent at the McMurray diner to $8,000 a month, she said.

“I would need $10,500 a month for rent, real estate taxes, insurance and utilities before I even sell my first egg,” Folino said. “I tried working with them. Through this whole process, we had a deal. It’s a shame that we lost our great little, award-winning diner. It made our neighbors busier and it was more revenue to the community.”

Folino said she was also hit with personal problems and employee issues.

“We had our fair share of dishonest management,” she said. “But, we got it all straightened out and we didn’t owe anything.”

The restaurateur said the rent was so steep in the Lakeside Plaza location, it was the highest rent paid there—which she attributes to vacating the premises. 

“We also always had a problem with complaining that we sell too much coffee,” she said. “I was limited on what I could do. Walnut Capital wanted us to pay three months in advance, which is too ridiculous. That's $24,000. It’s not affordable when you’re selling eggs.”

Walnut Capital officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

On the bright side, Folino said she’s been scouting new locations and may have found one nearby that looks very promising. 

“We would be able to open up very shortly,” she said. “It’s over toward the /Bethel Park area. We’re looking at it again today for the second time.”

She said the potential location has a liquor license and that she’d want to bring back her famous Bloody Mary bar. She told Patch a new menu would be introduced, too. 

“It would be more focused on the new economy,” she said. “Beer, burgers and a name people would recognize.”

Folino said the rent is about a third of what was expected at the McMurray location and it’s a similar space in size.

As far as breakfast foods? She said they would definitely be served on the weekends. And, on Fridays, she hopes to bring back the fish fry idea.

“We’d love to expand to breakfast seven days a week,” she said. “We hope the community accepts us there.”

Folino said she urges patrons to continue to visit her Dormont location. She said the business will honor Penny's Diner coupons. 

For now, the restaurant will operate through the end of May unless a move happens sooner.

What do you think about the closing of Penny's Diner? Tell us in the comments.

This article first appeared on Peters Patch.

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