The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

May 10, 2014

Soda Jerks Diner has a 1950s flavor

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Soda Jerks Diner at Action Lube, at 458 Chestnut St., near Winney Hill Road, is a family affair with a 1950s twist.

“We have a real soda fountain, we mix the syrup and the soda — hence the name ‘Soda Jerks,’” said Linda Burgher, who along with her family owns the garage with the 1950s diner.

The diner has black and white-tiled floors and retro stainless steel fixtures, as well as pill-box stools and booths. The 1950s-style juke box, pinball machine and posters of movie stars set a scene out of the television series, “Happy Days.”

“I grew up in a diner,” Burgher said. “On the other corner, there was the West End Diner — that was my family’s place. I went to Plains School, right there, where a shopping center is now. Seems like I just can’t get off of this (street).”

Not only did Burgher grow up there, but she raised her children and they have raised her grandchildren there.

“Soon it is going to be four generations living here,” said Heather Mann, Burgher’s daughter. “There are three apartments; Mom and Dad live upstairs in one and my brother Dustin lives in the other. I lived in the one out back until recently. My grandmother is getting frail, so we are making my old apartment handicapped-accessible for her.”

Mann went to culinary school and she is the impetus for starting the diner. Mann and her husband, Tim Mann, do the cooking and food preparation.

“Heather does a lot of really good things; she makes the best cakes – her MannMade cakes,” Burgher said. “She has also added a vegan and gluten-free menu, not because she is lactose intolerant, but because some of her cake customers are.”

Action Lube occupied the building for 12 years, which incidentally, according to Burgher, was built by Milton Rubenfeld, Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Rubens’ father.

“The garage was here first,” Burgher said. “We just added the diner about a year and a half ago. It seemed to make sense. We would see people come in and bring their food or someone would pick them up and they would go out to eat. We serve fresh, locally grown food. We have local meat — including bacon and local eggs. Everything is homemade.”

On the other side of the building, the garage is staffed by Butch Burgher and the couple’s two sons. They have a steady stream of business including some fleet accounts in which they services various companies’ vehicles on a regular basis.

“Yeah, we stay pretty busy, what with the fleets that come through and the regulars that need an inspection or oil change,” said Dustin Burgher.

Action Lube has the equipment to service older vehicles as well.

“It is getting to be hot rod time,” said Linda Burgher. “I get to drive them in and out of the bays, because we like to have someone clean drive them, and the guys get grease on their clothes. I kind of play lifeguard back and forth between the two shops.”

In addition to serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, Soda Jerks Diner hosts themed birthday parties.

“We have had birthday parties for seven year olds and 70 year olds,” Burgher said. “The seven year olds dressed up in poodle skirts that their moms made. It was so cute.”