19th Street Diner turns 25 this month | PostIndependent.com

19th Street Diner turns 25 this month

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The 19th Street Diner in Glenwood Springs has reached the august age of 25 years this month, and the owners are giving a party on Saturday night to celebrate.

The soiree will feature a Back To The ’80s karaoke venue in the front room, with a disc jockey, free appetizers, drink specials and a costume contest.

The grand prize for the contest winners will be a free night for two at the Sunlight Inn and two free lift tickets for Sunlight Mountain Resort, according to Diner owner Rick Wernsmann.

The party is to begin at 6 p.m. and continue until “whenever,” said Wernsmann.

Rick and Tonya Wernsmann, of New Castle, have owned the restaurant for nearly five years, having purchased it from founders Swannie and K.G. Schwanebeck when they decided they’d had enough and were ready to retire.

The Wernsmanns both worked at the Diner before they bought it, and they are still on the roster of shift employees.

Rick, a native of Wiggins, said he moved to Glenwood Springs in 1989 to attend photography school at Colorado Mountain College.

After a year and a half, he had to quit school and go to work, which he did at the now defunct Warehouse Furniture store for a dozen years.

When a bar management position opened up at the Diner – where Tonya had been working for several years – he took it, working his way up to general manager of the business in a year.

When the Schwanebecks, who live in Canyon Creek, decided to call it quits in 2006, Wernsmann said, they agreed to sell him the business “with the agreement that we wouldn’t change it.”

And they haven’t, in all the ways that count, he said.

“Why fix something that’s not broken?” he asked.

The establishment still employs at least 10 of the people who were there before the diner changed hands, he said. All of the Diner’s staples, such as chicken fried steak and meatloaf, are still on the menu.

Pointing to the rolling smoker outside the restaurant’s front window, Wernsmann noted, “We make our own Canadian bacon for the Benedicts now.”

On order, the diner is smoking turkeys for Thanksgiving, and salmon for parties and the occasional catering job.

There are no plans for any major changes in the foreseeable future, he added. “2011 was a good year for us compared to the last couple. The recession was tough.”

But with a core of regulars and a rising tide of tourists this year, Wernsmann feels he has weathered the worst of the economic storms and is ready to play the grateful host for his faithful customers on Saturday.

He has even hired a designated driver to offer rides to those who over-indulge that night.

Asked if he is the DD, Rick held his hands in front of him in mock horror and replied, “No, no, no, I’ve got a room right here at the Caravan.”


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