‘Icon of Americana’ to be auctioned April 26

Rosie’s, two other diners, open at $25,000

by BETH ALTENA

SIGN OF CHANGE—The online auction of Rosie’s Diner, two other diners and 4.5 acres on 14 Mile Road is advertised. The historic Rosie’s is a piece of American history, which our country has followed for nearly 100 years.

With an opening bid of $25,000, online bidders can have a chance to own a piece of American history as Rosie’s, two other diners and a mini-golf course on four-and-a-half acres at 4500 14 Mile Road, goes on the auction block.

According to Doug Heuker of LastBIDRealestate.com, the property, then a going business, was purchased in the range of $450,000 by Jonelle and Randy Roest of Whitehall in January 2006. The diners had been slated to be auctioned on January 31, when owner Jerry Berta of Rockford accepted the couple’s offer, canceling the auction.

Today, the situation is different after remaining owner Jonelle Woods (formerly Roest) closed the doors without notice in October 2011. Employees were told the diner was to be closed for a few days, but when they returned to work found the diners gutted of memorabilia and kitchen equipment and the locks on the doors changed. Calls to Woods’ phone were answered by a notice that the number was no longer working and television crews knocked at the door to her home without response.

The diner has a long history as an American icon after the public saw it in commercials for Pepsi, Sanka coffee and Bounty paper towels in the 1970s. The Bounty commercials were most responsible for the diner’s fame and featured the late actress Nancy Walker. Walker demonstrated the towels as the “quicker picker upper” as she cleaned up the numerous and frequent spills of the diner’s many clumsy patrons.

A SLICE OF HISTORY—The glitzy glow of neon and glimmering stainless steel recalls days when roadside dining cars were as much a part of America as apple pie and baseball. Rosie’s Diner will change hands after a bank-ordered auction of the real estate and buildings.

Rosie’s was built by the Paramount Dining Car Company in 1946 and was then called the Silver Dollar Diner. It was located on U.S. Route 46 in Little Ferry, New Jersey when it opened and was operated for over four decades by Ralph Corrado Sr. and then Ralph Corrado Jr. During the 45 years father and then son operated the diner, other companies, including Sony and Ethan Allen Furniture also used the structure as the setting for television advertisements.

Whether because of its commercial fame, or the charming reminder of American traditional mobile roadside eateries, Rosie’s has made national news over the years.

TOMORROW A STAR—Rosie the waitress was the cover story of Esquire magazine in November 1974.

According to an article reprinted from Media and Consumer in the Florida newspaper the Lakeland Ledger in 1975, Bounty’s maker, Proctor & Gamble, was the subject of some scrutiny because of the commercials. After the long-suffering Rosie wiped up another spill for the cameras, she then showed off the product’s strength by running a paper towel under a faucet and inviting her customers to put two full cups and saucers on the wet paper. The towel held up the cups without ripping.

Apparently Media and Consumer took issue with the implication that Bounty was stronger than other paper towel brands and demanded Proctor & Gamble release their research results. They claimed that any paper towel is capable of holding the weight of two cups and saucers if held a certain way, and the commercials were therefore misleading.

Proctor & Gamble’s response, according to the article, was to refuse to release their research results because doing so in the past had failed to get their information correctly through the media to the public. Further, the wording in the commercials did not directly claim Bounty was stronger than other paper towels, but simply gave the public a demonstration from which they could draw their own conclusions.

The Pittsburg Press newspaper also saw fit to print the news when Rockford resident and artist Jerry Berta purchased the diner from Ralph Corrado Jr. The article it ran was titled, “They soak up ambiance as Rosie’s Diner closes” and describes the fanfare as hundreds visited the celeb eatery for probably the last time.

Corrado had sold the property on which Rosie’s was located and the new owner didn’t want the diner, leaving Corrado with the task of moving it. Here in Rockford, Berta was already the owner of one diner, a 1947 Jerry O’Mahney Dining Car. He heard about the possible sale of the dining car in New Jersey and purchased it from Corrado for $10,000.

Although the dining car is mobile by nature, the prospect of transporting one from New Jersey to Rockford, Mich. was not a simple task. Berta solved the problem by having the diner sawed into two pieces, each loaded on a flatbed truck and hauled to its current location. The diner arrived in July 1991 and opened for business here in Rockford on July 5.

In 1994, a third diner was relocated from Fulton, New York, to the Rockford property, forming the current trio. In addition to Rosie’s, there is also a former sports bar diner called The Garden of Eatin’ and Uncle Bob’s Diner, most recently operated as an ice cream shop.

The sale from Berta to Jonelle and Randy Roest was reported locally and also in the Rocky Mountain News with a 663-word article on March 25, 2000. The Associated Press article touted the diner as “an icon of classic American culture,” and said over 100 different commercials were filmed in the structure.

According to Heuker, the value of the diner depends on the passion of the purchaser. Up for auction is the land, the diners and anything attached. Any personal property within the structures will be auctioned separately in another online auction by his company one week after the Rosie’s auction.

“We let the auction process tell us what it is worth,” Heuker said.

He said the value of the diner being the original Rosie’s Diner may well affect the price, but the fact that it is no longer a running business will also be a factor. Heuker said his company is working for the owner, but that the bank has ordered the auction. Offering the sale online rather than in person can allow more people to bid because it removes the obstacle of having to be physically present.

Heuker said a typical online auction can be anywhere from six to 12 bidders on a property, but every sale is different. Bidders do not have to be pre-approved, but the bank will have to authorize the actual sale price after the auction. “They don’t want it, though,” Heuker said.

Only the next owner of the storied structure will decide the fate of Rockford’s Rosie’s and a move is not out of the question. In 2000, Berta sold the rights to the name Rosie’s Diner to investors who built two replicas in the Boulder, Colorado area. Today, each of those two restaurants carry on the glitzy Rosie’s tradition of Americana and can be found at 411 Highway 105 in Monument Colorado and 11550 Ridgeline Drive in Colorado Springs, Colo. Perhaps the owners of the western Rosie’s will be among the bidders ? April 26 looking for the real thing.

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