Famous NY diner doesn’t pay off in remote Wyo. town
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Five years after a doomed New York City landmark was rescued and hauled from the Big Apple to Wyoming, the diner made famous in movies and television appears kaput.
The Moondance Diner, known from the 2002 Spider-Man movie and TV shows including Sex and the City and Friends, has been put up for sale after a long period of slow business. And the owners say that so far they haven’t received a serious offer.
The restaurant arrived in LaBarge, Wyo., after New Yorkers raised a ruckus about the threat to the diner from developers who wanted it out of the way so they could build a high-rise condo.
The developers donated the eatery to the American Diner Museum, which in turn sold it to Cheryl and Vince Pierce, who in 2007 hauled the SoHo landmark 2,400 miles to their hometown out West.
It took a week to get the Moondance from the nation’s biggest city and its more than 8 million residents to the town of LaBarge, population 400.
The Pierces remodeled and opened the restaurant in 2009, but they say a lack of interest from tourists and a downturn in the natural gas industry have made it impossible to keep the doors open.
“I’ve put so much into it over the last five years, and I’m kind of tapped,” Cheryl Pierce said.
“I hate to admit that, but I really am. I’m tapped financially, emotionally and physically,” she added.
The diner has been closed since spring and Cheryl Pierce said this week after a hard look at her business records, she has no plans to reopen.
The Pierces bought the 80-year-old Moondance for $7,500. They’re selling it for $290,000, about the amount they say they owe the bank.
By the time the Pierces purchased the restaurant it had seen better days. Their work included a new roof—the old one collapsed in a nasty Wyoming snowstorm—as well as structural reinforcements and new fixtures and appliances.
The Pierces announced their intent to sell in July. A few people have shown interest, Cheryl Pierce said, but “none real serious.”
Business from tourist traffic didn’t pan out like the Pierces thought it might along U.S. 189, one of the southern approaches to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
Meanwhile, gas drilling declines have reduced the number of active rigs in the state from more than 100 when the Pierces first opened the Moondance to about 50 now, according to the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. Western Wyoming and LaBarge have not been spared the downturn.
“It’s been a struggle, so that area hasn’t been a real hotbed lately,” said the association’s president, Bruce Hinchey.
The downturn has relegated LaBarge from minor boomtown to once again a sleepy waypoint out in sagebrush country.
“Absolutely zilch,” local real estate agent Dennis Hacklin said of his business these days. “Some of the companies here are laying off people that’s been with them for years. The foreclosures are right and left.”
He grieved that the Moondance, which closed in March, was lost.
“That’s the only place we had to eat besides two convenience stores,” said Hacklin, a past mayor of LaBarge. “It’s really a shame it wasn’t able to stay going.”
Whoever buys the diner could move it elsewhere with a lot less trouble than it took to get it out of New York, Cheryl Pierce said.
“It’s raring to go. It’s ready. It’s ready to still be the Moondance,” she said. “It’s a better and improved Moondance—as far as a building and that part of it—than it’s ever been.”
Mead Gruver can be followed at http://twitter.com/meadgruver
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE