Bill Staffa runs diner, represents a good...


Bill Staffa runs diner, represents a good cause

Bill Staffa runs a restaurant with a staff of troubled teens and a budget leaner than the burgers he serves. So why is the manager of the new Hollywood Diner so happy?

"I like to represent strong causes, things that have a lot of integrity," says the 29-year-old, who lives in Fullerton.

So when the Chesapeake Center, a Brooklyn-based organization for at-risk youths, recently took over the Saratoga Street diner, Mr. Staffa -- who has a bachelor's degree in psychology and 15 years' restaurant experience -- was a natural for the job.

There was one other qualification not everyone knew he had: He overcame his own rocky adolescence, which included trying drugs and getting suspended from school.

"That's why I'm so into this," he explains. "I help the kids finally realize that someone is their ally."

The restaurant, formerly called the Kids' Diner, prides itself on two things: serving breakfast or lunch for less than $4, and having been the setting for the Barry Levinson film "Diner."

But even with an illustrious past, the diner has faced some difficulties. "The day we opened we didn't get any milk, pastries or muffins," he says. "Our first customers got black coffee with non-dairy creamer." It's no exaggeration to say that Donna Patterson is taking on the old boy network.

That's because when the general manager of the Baltimore Arena attends a meeting, she's usually the only woman, and the only person under 30, present.

But such are the consequences when you become the youngest -- and first woman -- G.M. in the Arena's 30-year history.

"It's a challenge," says Ms. Patterson, 29, of Northwest Baltimore. "It doesn't intimidate me because I feel confident and prepared."

Seven years ago, she was just another intern at the Capital Centre. But thanks to talent, effort and luck, she raced up the corporate ladder, getting jobs as a sales executive and assistant general manager before being promoted last year.

The job comes with plenty of responsibilities -- a $3 million budget, a 190-event schedule and 100 employees -- all of which she copes with in 60-hour work weeks.

And while her job has allowed her opportunities to meet sports heroes, including Dr. J, she's avoided taking advantage of her position.

Ms. Patterson says, "I don't want to be perceived as the young female pounding on the back door."

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