Owner of Mary’s Gourmet Diner talks about restaurant closing down after nearly 20 years

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — For nearly 20 years, Mary’s Gourmet Diner provided customers with great food and good conversation. Loyal fans of the downtown Winston-Salem restaurant are now heartbroken because the popular diner’s temporary closing is now permanent.

“The whole point was to bring comfort level not only to your body but to your soul,” said co-owner and founder Mary Haglund. “Frankly, if I can’t do that then I rather not be in business.”

Mary’s Gourmet Diner was known for using locally sourced ingredients, cooking delicious comfort foods, and unique artwork that decorated the restaurant. The combination often brought long lines and big crowds. Haglund was always at the diner to welcome her customers she called family.

“When you came to Mary’s, you got a hug and a kiss and the whole point was to bring that comfort level not only to your body but to your soul,” said Haglund.

Part of Mary’s Gourmet Diner’s family would have been left out under North Carolina’s Phase Two reopening guidelines. Haglund didn’t feel comfortable opening the restaurant at a lower capacity. Plus there was too much uncertainty involved in running a dine-in restaurant during a pandemic. While it is a sad time for Haglund, she is excited that she got the chance to live out her childhood dream.

“It has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I love to cook and I love people and I thought it would be really fun,” said Haglund.

There are several next steps for Haglund. One is to encourage restaurant owners to be creative and innovative so they can remain in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are working so hard to do this. My heart goes out to them. If I was 20 years younger, maybe I would do that too. But it’s time to lay down the spatula.”

Other plans involve writing a book about her experiences that would also include recipes. Haglund is also producing a documentary about the diner and the arts community.

Haglund’s co-owner, Michael Millan, plans to return to his well-known food truck business.

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