Town of Newburgh’s Neptune Diner, located on Route 17k, was best known for its community atmosphere and for attracting a dedicated group of regulars. After 35 years of serving the community, owner Marie Spina decided to close the diner’s doors for the last time this past Sunday, Christmas Eve.
“I’m tired. I’m emotionally, physically, spiritually burnt out,” said Spina. “I loved it…I would have kept going, but it’s difficult physically.”
Spina, formerly a math teacher, entered the restaurant business with her father more than three decades ago, and has since run the business with the help of her daughters Ann-Marie Rant and Dawn Spina. The diner has become a landmark of Newburgh, leaving behind a legacy of community involvement. Neptune would stay open late hosting nearly 20 years of Valley Central High School’s post-musical parties; the most recent signed poster of Valley Central’s 2017 42nd Street hung on the wall. Neptune was also known for offering military discount to members of the Air National Guard, Air force and Marines, many of whom became regular supporters of the restaurant. Generations of kids remember enjoying toys from the diner’s toy castle, specially made by a local retired carpenter. For Spina, the diner was about “nurturing the community. I’m a giver, and I love it.”
A prospective buyer had been going back and forth over purchasing the property for eight months, but it wasn’t until early December that Spina got word that the land and building were being purchased and that Neptune would need to close in a couple of weeks. Facing the reality of the restaurant’s end proved to be difficult for her and the staff, many of whom have worked there since its opening 35 years ago.
“You have to be here to understand: the customers, the hugging, the crying,” explained Spina. “We’re just grieving.”
The Mid Hudson Times spoke with Spina at the Neptune Diner this past Friday, as a steady stream of regulars came in for one last meal, saying goodbyes to Spina and other staff members. It was an emotional time, and Spina admitted it was hard to think about the future. But even then, she remained optimistic. “I have a lot of passions as a human being. I love my gardening, organizing, volunteering…The whole world is going to be open to me.” Spina mentioned plans for a future vacation with her daughters, who haven’t taken a vacation together in 18 years. As always, Spina is dedicated to remaining involved in the community.
“I live in this community, and I will remain in this community, and help in any way I can,” said Spina. “My journey continues.”
To her customers, Spina is grateful for the impact they have had on her life. “I want to thank them for all the years and all the memories. Watching them grow and all their stories; watching their kids grow… I just want to thank them, for being a part of my life and allowing me to be a part of their life,” said Spina.
By Lauren Berg