Eating & Drinking

GET YOUR NOSTALGIA FIX QUICK: Another old-style diner closes up shop

Zellers Family Diner at Billings Bridge will likely be replaced by a Starbucks
By Michael Prentice

Photography by Justin Van Leeuwen

The old-fashioned diner in the soon-to-close Zellers store at Billings Bridge Plaza resembles a time capsule from 50 years ago. It even calls itself the Zellers Family Diner. Its appearance hasn’t changed in years — or even decades. But the restaurant will close its doors forever in mid-December, leaving many unhappy regulars looking for an alternative that suits them as well. The diner is closing because this Zellers location, like several in Ottawa, is slated to be converted into a Target department store. But while the diner will shut down in December, the Zellers is expected to remain open until March. The word is that when it reopens as a Target store, a Starbucks will replace the diner.

So long: (Left to right) Donna Cummings, Najwa Acar, and Krista Goodchild. Staff and diners call Cummings the heart and soul of the restaurant. Along with managing the diner, she runs bingo nights for customers (and makes the desserts for the evening herself ). Photography by Justin Van Leeuwen

Donna Cummings is the heart and soul of the diner. She’s a big reason many customers return time and again. Some know her only by her first name. Some know her just as “the lady who always serves us.”

Donna, who has worked at the diner for a decade, supervises a staff of eight in the 94-seat restaurant. She says she has no idea where, or if, she’ll find another job. “I’m going to be 58 in January. Who’s going to hire me?” she wonders. But she knows she’ll be at the helm until the last day. “It’s too early to look for another job,” she says. “I can’t just abandon my regular customers. A captain goes down with the ship.”

While Target has reportedly said it will hire Zellers employees whenever possible, Donna says the staff have received no guarantees.

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