A Chock Full O’ Nuts Diner Reopens in NYC

Dec 15, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Nearly 30 years after the closing its last café in New York
City, a Chock full o’ Nuts diner has reopened on 23rd Street.

The first Chock
full o’ Nuts shop was opened by William Black in 1926 as a nut store (hence
the name) and added coffee and donuts during the depression. Chock full o’
Nuts had around 100 luncheonettes in the city at its peak before closing the
last one in the early eighties to focus on its supermarket business. (It first
began selling its coffee to supermarkets in 1953.) Recognized for its lengthy
stainless steel counters, the places became known for their Classic Chock nut
bread sandwiches, wheat donuts, grilled hot dogs, and lemon cream pie — as
well as the coffee.

"It finally dawned on us that we were missing the heritage, and that
we really needed to get back to the roots of what Chock was really well-known
for," Jim
LaGanke, a vice president of Massimo Zanetti Beverage, which acquired the coffee
brand in 2006, told the New York Times. "We’re going to bring
back Chock to New York in a way that people remember it."

The diner clearly
plays to that nostalgia. Back are the wheat donuts, nut bread sandwiches as
well as standards such as split pea soup. The diner also features the lyrics
of its famous "Heavenly Coffee" slogan and black and white
photos, including an homage to Jackie Robinson, who headed up Chock full o’
Nuts HR after his legendary baseball career. The menu also includes some modern
fare, including Buffalo wings, grilled salmon and Cobb salad.

The Times article
found some customers relishing the memories.

"I hadn’t seen one of these in decades, and I got terribly excited," said
Susan Scapier, a former fan of the diner’s hot dogs.

Madeline Tarantino and
Rose Sorrentino, longtime friends from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, remembered
the old diner’s donuts. "Just goes to show,
some things do come back," said Ms. Tarantino.

A second Chock full o’ Nuts
is being planned for Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The developers, Joe Bruno and Patrick
Johnson, have rights to develop 50 restaurants across the city (except for
Staten Island) over the next 15 years.

The move comes as both Starbucks and
Dunkin Donuts have recently brought their store brands to supermarket shelves.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Chock full o’ Nuts reopening
diners? How supportive could diners be to the brand’s wholesale efforts?
Can you think of any other supermarket brands that have an opportunity to
tap into some nostalgia of their past through eateries?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "A Chock Full O’ Nuts Diner Reopens in NYC"

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Liz Crawford
10 years 4 months ago

I loved the old Chock full o’ Nuts diner, right around the corner from my dorm freshman year. Even then it had a great retro feel.

The timing is great here, provided that the styling is authentic retro diner and the prices are diner. This is a very different offering from either Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. What a great way to ride out the end of the recession.

Bernice Hurst
10 years 4 months ago

Oh yes to the nostalgia factor. Teen days sitting on a stool at the counter munching date nut bread with cream cheese….

But not sure it will catch on once we oldies have taken our stroll down memory lane.

Gene Detroyer
10 years 4 months ago

Tide dry cleaners. Mr. Clean car washes. It all makes sense. It is an ideal extension of brand name to a totally new business. The return on investment for these traditional brand extensions should be well beyond the more popular twelfth variation of Special K.

But, like all businesses, it has to be able to stand on its own. It must be unique and of high quality. And the coffee better be good.

Dan Berthiaume
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 4 months ago

Bring back diners! It’s as simple as that.

John Hyman
10 years 4 months ago

Love the retro look and feel and there was a time when it was a Manhattan destination. The outcome will largely be determined by how well they execute their promise to the customer and the value they provide in the food quality, service, and pricing.

Howard Davidson
10 years 4 months ago

If the diners reflect their authentic roots, the positive halo for their iconic brand at shelf will be well worth the rental space, fixtures and dirty dishes. Timing seems particularly apt as consumers seek pride in all that is “local” and comfort in the unpretentious. And CFON is all that and more!

Can’t wait to visit….

John Frank
John Frank
10 years 4 months ago

Chock full o’ Nuts was a New York icon in my 1970s college days when I spent summers as a Wall Street messenger. Besides the items mentioned, it also had an amazing thick shake. I worked for a brokerage firm with an office on Beaver Street that had a Chock in the building; that meant I often was sent downstairs for soup and coffee for the brokers.

If the quality is there, I think New Yorkers will flock to these new Chocks. Can’t wait to go myself next time I’m in the city.

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 4 months ago

The nostalgia returns with a lost legend returning to their roots. If these are strategically located they can’t help but be successful. Even if you were not a customer when they were the rage; going in and smelling the aroma will make you one now.

Preethi Chaparala
Preethi Chaparala
10 years 4 months ago

As a New Yorker, I’m thrilled. It will definitely stir up the emotions of longtime New York residents to see Chock full o’ Nuts diner back in the city. Business wise, not sure how profitable it will be but I wish them the best!

Jerry Gelsomino
10 years 4 months ago

Keep it authentic. Don’t over expand. Keep quality and great service as the number one market strategy. Ignore what Starbucks does next. And the concept should be an instant winner.

Phil Rubin
10 years 4 months ago

CFON has a great opportunity to exist between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts and other “fast-casual” chains while “chaining” the diner concept. Gourmet coffee chains have never gotten food to where it should be and CFON can capitalize on this, while leveraging its brand heritage.


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