A two-story, 80-seat stainless-steel retro '50s diner called Goober's will soon rise from the ground as the prelude to an expected late-fall opening of the newest restaurant venture of Buckley's owners Vance Kershner and Tom Hannum.
"It's going to be a traditional diner, a great neighborhood place with three services a day," said Vaughn Hardin of Labware, which specializes in laboratory automation and was named the 2016 Company of the Year by the Delaware Bioscience Association. It is based in Wilmington with offices all over the world.
"We're finalizing the menu now, but it probably won't have any fine-dining items. But it will have a great all-day breakfast, the best in town!"
Goober's will arrive at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Lincoln Street by flatbed truck after having been assembled, broken apart, and hauled to Wilmington from its manufacturer in Atlanta. It will open within a month or two after that.
Sharp-eyed commuters passing Grotto's Pizza have seen the site prep and watched the transformation of a 100-year-old building over the past few years into the neon-lit Goober's Garage, which will house Kershner's car collection.
Hardin said Goober's will draw customers from new apartments across the street and other planned residential construction in the area, along with Delawareans anxious to see what the partners will bring to the table.
Hannum, who spent 33 years working at the Hotel du Pont before retiring in 2011 (16 of that running the kitchen at the hotel's Green Room), reopened Buckley's in Centreville in 2012 after months of renovation with a partnership group that includes Kershner.
Hannum expects to hire 25 to 30 people and his pastry chef at Buckley's will join the Goober's team. He's buying a pressure fryer for "good fried chicken" and says the diner will also have good coffee and coffee drinks and a walk-up window for quick purchases.
"The Hotel was a large operation with a lot of support from DuPont for HR, Legal, Accounting, and other support," Hannum said. "At Buckley's, I had to take over these functions as well as cooking, which was different. The diner will be the same. I think the area needs a good breakfast place as there really aren't many other options for that and Vance's vision for a diner is perfect. Having great food at a fair price while supporting the community is important to both of us."
The diner is being designed and built by two Atlanta-based companies, Dinermite and Frey Moss, whose core business is modular construction, Hardin said.
The Goober's team is in the process of resubmitting its permit requests, and Frey Moss will start building once those are approved. It's about a four-month process before the trucks head north. It will take a week to 10 days to put the brand-new diner back together and then a few weeks to put the final touches in place before the diner's soft opening.