By Danny Schrafel
Tim’s Shipwreck Diner’s long-awaited turn in the television spotlight has made its Food Network debut, and already, the reaction is resounding.
“It was great. Everybody loved it,” owner Tim Hess said.
Hess’ diner and his crew are the focus of episode 1 of “American Diner Rescue,” the latest project of “Extreme Home Makeover” star Ty Pennington. The program debuted Wednesday night, with an early-morning replay on Thursday. The episode will air again at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Tim’s Shipwreck Diner has been serving the town of Northport for a century. But times are tough for this beloved boxcar diner on Main Street and owner Tim is struggling to keep his ship afloat,” the Food Network said in an episode description. “Ty Pennington is rallying the locals to help renovate the diner, update the menu and give the town a revived diner to serve them for another hundred years — all without Tim knowing a thing!”
And in August 2014, rally they did. Using Seymour’s Boatyard up the road as a home base, the team, supported by hundreds of volunteers from around town, completed a two-day sprint to revitalize the Northport Village institution before owner Tim Hess, safely secluded on a Montauk fishing trip, returned.
The makeover yielded a new floor, new lights, new seats and tables, nautical-themed breakfast counter stools and an overall blue-and-white color scheme prevail, as well as new sky lights installed by Pennington’s crew. The overall effect is familiar but brighter and refreshed. Don’t forget the framed selfie of Pennington and Tim’s crew, either.
Jeanne Cincotta, a waitress for 25 years at the Shipwreck – she worked for Tim’s dad, Otto, when he owned the place – appears in the episode talking about Tim and putting down flooring with Pennington. During the process, she said she was there “day and night,” and so far, the hard work has paid off.
“People are walking in saying they loved it... They’re asking for our autographs, asking me to do their floors. It’s cute,” she said.
For months beforehand, word had been going around Northport that some sort of reality TV show might be filming at Tim’s Shipwreck Diner, an iconic railcar diner purchased by Tim’s father in the early 1970s. Otto’s Shipwreck Diner became Tim’s in 1996 when his son took the wheel.
During Pennington’s visit, Northport became his stage – he filmed at the Northport Farmer’s Market, and before undertaking the two-day turnaround remodeling, Pennington worked the streets of Northport to drum up volunteers.
It’s not the Shipwreck’s first time in the spotlight. In 1997, Northport Village and the little boxcar diner got their Hollywood close-up, playing host to a major scene in the romantic comedy hit, “In & Out.” Outside, “Royal Pains” shot scenes for its pilot, Hess’ girlfriend, Janet Eckel, said.
What was especially sweet, Hess said, is to watch Northport rally behind him.
“What was really nice was to see the whole village. I’m the one they picked, but the whole community did it,” he said.