Perry Hall's Double T Diner prepares to roll to new location

The doors have been shut, the dessert cases are empty and the kitchen no longer serves up spinach pie, omelettes or milkshakes at the Double T Diner in Perry Hall.

Contractors have emptied the basement and are disconnecting the utilities in preparation to carefully roll the entire diner about 300 feet to a new location across the parking lot this summer.

It's an unusual move negotiated to keep the diner in business after the property at the corner of East Joppa and Belair roads was sold to make way for a new CVS Pharmacy store.

"It broke my heart last week to close this place down, believe me," co-owner John Korologos said this week, sitting in the oddly quiet diner.

If all goes well, Korologos hopes to re-open the diner by December. But it's going to take a lot of work to get there.

Initially, Korologos and his brother and co-owner Tom Korologos, planned to sell the property and close the diner.

"CVS approached us with good numbers," John Korologos said.

Property records show Maryland CVS Pharmacy LLC bought the 1.2-acre property for $5.5 million earlier this year.

Word spread through Perry Hall that the diner would be lost to make way for the CVS, and some residents were not happy.

County Councilman David Marks, who lives about a mile away, stepped in and helped negotiate a deal: CVS still would buy the property and build its store, but the Double T could lease back part of the land and relocate its building to another corner of the lot.

Marks said he got CVS to agree to an upgraded parking and landscaping plan as part of the deal, and said the site will be "thoughtfully redeveloped."

"I thought it was important to preserve 40 neighborhood jobs and work on a compromise in which that corner is improved," said Marks, a Republican. "It's a key intersection in Perry Hall and the diner is a local landmark."

Korologos was thrilled with the intervention, saying Marks did "a wonderful job with the community."

Marks said he had heard grumbling from some residents who felt the neighborhood did not need another drugstore. But he said the CVS plan is allowable under the current zoning.

"Government doesn't pick how many banks and how many pharmacies go in one particular location," he said.

Neighbors are glad the diner will be saved, but are disappointed another drugstore is being built, said Jack Amrhein, president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association. He counts 10 stand-alone pharmacies and grocery stores with pharmacies within a four-mile area.

Amrhein wishes Double T could stay in its more prominent spot on the corner, instead of relocating to make way for the CVS.

"That is the entranceway to downtown Perry Hall. CVS is a big ugly aesthetic instead of a hometown diner," Amrhein said. "It's not really what the locals want."

Officials with CVS and J.C. Bar Development, the Pennsylvania company that is building the drugstore, did not respond to requests for comment.

Before the CVS can be built, the Double T Diner has to make its move this summer to a spot at the northern end of the property near the intersection of Belair Road and Brookfield Road.

Dino Kypraios and his team from MIG General Contractors in Lutherville are separating the restaurant — all 6,000 square feet of it — from its basement and foundation.

The fixtures in the main restaurant space, including the booths and tables, will remain intact for the move.

Thirty steel beams will be placed under the floor to create a support base, which in turn will be placed on wheels. Once a new foundation is poured in a few weeks, the restaurant will slowly be rolled into place.

Kypraios said the work has to be precise. The new foundation must match the old one — a tricky task for an 18-year-old building. "This building is not exactly square," he said.

A computerized hydraulics system will help make sure that the diner isn't twisted or torqued in a way that could compromise its structural integrity.

The work is not cheap. John Korologos said just moving the diner will cost at least $150,000 — a figure that doesn't include pouring the new foundation, connecting utilities, the renovations he plans inside or the 40-year lease with CVS.

He envisions celebrating the winter holidays in the reopened diner. That will depend, however, on the pace of construction for the CVS.

While the diner is closed, most of the staff have been transferred to other Double T Diner locations in the region. A few elected to take some time off, Korologos said.

There are eight Double T Diners in the local chain with other locations in Annapolis, Bel Air, Catonsville, Ellicott City, Frederick, Pasadena and White Marsh.

Mark Elsaid, general manager of the Perry Hall diner for a decade, said he's looking forward to having his employees and customers back.

"This place has been here for 18 years and is like a home for everybody," Elsaid said. "So, when you have a home and you close your home for a couple months, everybody gets sad and upset. So we look forward to see everybody in the future."

pwood@baltsun.com

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